Ford shuts early as sales slump

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The Independent Online
NEARLY 10,000 workers at Ford's Dagenham assembly plant are to take an extra week's Christmas holiday from today because of the slump in the European market.

Union leaders said that while workers might appreciate more time with their families, they could lose up to pounds 60 in shift allowances and bonus payments.

Employees at the Southampton plant are also having an extra three days off and colleagues at Halewood on Merseyside an extra day.

Jimmy Airlie, lead negotiator for the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union at Ford, said the extra 'downtime' proved that Britain was still in deep recession.

'The evidence is everywhere to be seen that the UK has a long way to go before it gets back to anything approaching prosperity,' he said. 'If the Government's economic forecasters were medical practitioners, they would have been struck off years ago.'

Ford's main plants have been hit by short-time working earlier this year. Normally workers at Dagenham finish on 23 December and go back on 4 January instead of the lay- off period which now extends from 15 December to 5 January.

A company spokesman said that the shutdown at Dagenham would be used to fit safety features to the Fiesta model, such as an inflatable bag on the steering column. He confirmed, however, that the lay-offs at Halewood and Southampton were caused entirely by the fall in the demand for vehicles.

Union leaders have been told that the company is incurring losses of around pounds 1m a day because of the recession. Over the past three years it has recorded a total deficit of pounds 1.2bn.

Ford calculates that the record levels of sales in 1989 will not be achieved again until the late 1990s at the earliest.