'Black day' as car makers axe 2,500

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FORD IS to make nearly 1,500 workers redundant at its two main car factories while Rolls-Royce is shedding 950 jobs at Crewe, Cheshire.

The job losses, most of which will happen before the end of the year, are a strong indication of the depth of the recession and pessimism about the prospects for an upturn in the economy.

Ford unions declared they would 'resist' what would be the first compulsory redundancies in 30 years after management indicated that the redundancies could not be achieved entirely through voluntary means.

Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said the union would back industrial action on the issue if his members demanded it.

Union leaders also urged the company's 38,000 workers to reject a management plan to defer by six months a pay increase of around 5 per cent due in November in order to avoid cuts. A reduction in 'lay-off' pay from 100 per cent to 60 per cent would also be resisted.

Ford is seeking 740 redundancies at Dagenham in Essex and 700 at Halewood on Merseyside. Both plants are already on short-time working. A further 47 jobs will go at the Bridgend engine factory in South Wales. Another 700 jobs are still due to go out of 2,100 redundancies announced last February.

The job losses at Rolls-Royce will reduce the workforce to 2,400 compared with 5,300 18 months ago and are designed to reduce its break-even point to 1,400 cars a year. That, however, is still above this year's expected sales of between 1,250 and 1,350.

Sir Colin Chandler, the chief executive of Vickers, which owns Rolls-Royce, said: 'I hope this is the last cut we have to make.'

Rolls-Royce also intends to contract out some engineering work and buy in a greater number of components. But Sir Colin said Rolls-Royce would still make its own radiators, work the walnut wood and buy the same Swiss leather, which is free of holes caused by barbed wire.

Jimmy Airlie, chief engineering union negotiator at Ford, said: 'It's a black day in a black week.' Jack Adams, leader of negotiators from the Transport and General Workers' Union, said the announcement was a 'disgrace'.

Ian McAllister, Ford of Britain chairman, said that the cuts were a 'painful but inevitable' consequence of difficult trading conditions.

'The workforce reductions will be achieved by voluntary means wherever possible, although some compulsory redundancies may be necessary should there be insufficient volunteers,' he added.

Ford said car production would be cut by up to 250 vehicles a day at the two biggest plants. The company believes total car sales this year will be 1.55 million compared with last year's total of 1.59 million.

Ford employed 80,000 people in 1980 but has cut an average of 3,600 jobs a year since then.