Ford deal with unions saves Dagenham and 25,000 jobs

FORD YESTERDAY struck a ground-breaking productivity deal with unions at its Dagenham car plant in return for a pounds 500m investment in two new models which will secure up to 25,000 motor industry jobs.

The new flexible working agreement will safeguard the future of the Essex plant until well into the next century and will enable production to rise to at least 300,000 by 2002.

In addition to the new Fiesta, due to go into production in 2001, Ford has agreed to build a second model at Dagenham, probably a small people carrier type vehicle based on the Fiesta platform.

In return, the Dagenham workforce has agreed to sweeping changes in working practices aimed at raising productivity levels by 10 per cent year on year and producing annual savings of pounds 100m.

Dagenham employs 8,000 workers - 4,500 in car production and 3,500 in engine assembly. But unions estimate a further 15,000 to 17,000 jobs in supply companies will be safeguarded by the new deal, which was approved at mass meetings of the Dagenham workforce on Tuesday.

The key features of the Modern Operating Agreement signed by the company and its main unions are:

n New labour mobility and multi-skilling arrangements enabling workers to do different jobs around the plant.

n A reduction in overtime and introduction of flexible working with variable shift patterns and staggered start and finish times.

n More flexible holiday rotas so that employees take more time off early in the year.

n Fresh measures to curb absenteeism including interviews with workers when they return from sick leave.

The new agreement replaces the so-called Blue Book - a 200-page bible that has laid down working practices at Dagenham for decades.

Although the Dagenham workforce will not have anything quite as formal as the working hours account set up at Rover's Longbridge plant, they will be expected to work longer hours when demand is high and shorter hours during traditionally low periods of demand.

Ken Jackson, general secretary of the AEEU engineering union, welcomed the agreement saying: "This secures 25,000 jobs and demonstrates the tangible benefits of partnership. Dagenham is already a highly productive plant and with the addition of a second model it will be able to compete with the best in Europe."

Steve Turner, an official of the Transport and General Workers Union, described the deal as "an historic turning point in Dagenham's fortunes".

The T&G convenor in the Dagenham body plant, Keith Elcock, meanwhile said the agreement had put to rest speculation about the future of Dagenham which had persisted for the last 30 years.

Although Ford had already nominated Dagenham as the lead plant for the new Fiesta, its lack of a single-sourced second model has always left the site vulnerable. In addition, Dagenham has been on short-time working since last October because of the collapse in the European export market which traditionally accounts for 45 per cent of its production.

Under the new agreement, Ford has undertaken to provide enough capacity to build 150,000 of the second model and increase the installed capacity of the plant from 272,000 to 300,000.

But unions are optimistic that if the new Fiesta proves as popular as the existing model, currently Britain's biggest selling car, then production could rise to well over 300,000. This would involve the introduction of a third shift, creating several hundred new jobs.

The agreement also provides for a "fair balancing" of production of smaller B-class cars between Dagenham and Cologne in Germany, the other manufacturing site for the Fiesta. This guarantees that any increase in European demand will be met partially from the UK plant.

Outlook, page 17

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Christine McCleave: FP&A Analyst

£36,000 - £40,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new opportunity a...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn