Britain's biggest factory goes on four-day week p

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FORD IS putting its biggest UK factory on a four-day week because of deteriorating exports, the company announced yesterday.

Two shifts at the car-maker's Dagenham plant in Essex will not produce cars for six weeks from 1 October.

The move to stop production on the Thursday night and Friday day shifts was described by Ford as a temporary measure.

The two shifts produce around 1,225 vehicles a week, including Fiesta cars, Fiesta vans and Mazda cars.

The 4,400 employees at Dagenham will still report for work but will undergo training and other non-production duties. A Ford spokesman said the British market was "quite strong" and the Fiesta was selling well in this country. It has been one of the two top-selling cars in the UK in the past year.

"The decision has been taken purely because of deteriorating export markets," the spokesman said.

Dagenham exports about 45 per cent of its output to countries including Italy, France, Spain and Mexico.

Roger Lyons, general secretary of the Manufacturing, Science and Finance union which represents white-collar workers at Ford, said: "This is bad news and brings further evidence that manufacturing is in difficulty. A cut in interest rates and a task force for manufacturing are needed urgently."

The reversal in economic fortunes is particularly disappointing for Ford, which as recently as July was running an extra Saturday shift at Dagenham to cope with an increase in orders.

A forecast yesterday from the Centre for Economics and Business Research said Britain was "within a hair's breadth of recession".