General paint operator John Smith (not his real name), 49, has worked at Longbridge for the past 27 years.He has been on sick leave since December 1999 suffering from depression, is on regular medication and is being counselled by his GP.Two weeks ago, before BMW's decision was revealed, he felt well enough to return to work.

'I felt I was beg inn ing to come up from that downward spira l that caused my depression in the first place, but after all that bad press. . . I feel like I'm back where I was before. . . and I don't want to be in that situation. I want to try and get better and get back to work.

'I spoke to some other friends yesterday, and they feel the same, a lot of them feel terrible anxiety.

'You're going to have a lot of people have break-ups with their marriages.A lot of people are going to have medical problems like I've got, nervous breakdowns and everything. It's going to be stretching the health service in the Midlands to its limits. . . the devastation it will cause is unbelievable.'