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

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
Life and Style
food + drink
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
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

Lead Business Analyst - Banking - London - £585

£525 - £585 per day: Orgtel: Lead Business Analyst - Investment Banking - Lond...

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Engineer-(Support, ITIL, Software Vendor)

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Engineer-(Support, S...

Service Delivery and Support Manager

£55000 - £75000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: Service Deli...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home