Ford to slash 680 UK jobs as sales drop

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FORD YESTERDAY announced it was to shed 680 jobs, and management sources revealed that short-time working at its biggest plant would continue for at least another three months.

The cutback in the company's workforce is part of a drive for higher productivity. The continued reduction in the working week from five days to four at the Dagenham works in Essex has been prompted by disappointing sales in Europe.

It is also understood that management is considering whether to lengthen the normal two week "down" period at the Essex complex that produces the Fiesta. Dagenham has been on a four-day week since last October and its extension, disclosed to The Independent, will cause considerable concern among both employees and shareholders.

The news comes less than 24 hours after the Prime Minister welcomed an agreement to secure the future of the Rover plant at Longbridge, Birmingham.

Referring to the Ford job cuts, Tony Woodley, national official of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said that while the redundancies were voluntary, which might suit older workers who wanted to leave, there was still a "major concern" about the continual loss of jobs.

"If the yearly cull continues without something being done to create new jobs or at least maintain jobs, there will be no-one left," he said.

Ford said the voluntary programme would begin immediately and finish towards in July. Most jobs will be lost at the Halewood and Dagenham plants.

The breakdown of job losses is: Aveley in Essex, 20; Belfast, 16; Dagenham, 220; Daventry, Northamptonshire, 15; Enfield, north London, 20; Halewood, 260; Swansea, 52; Southampton, 70 and Dunton in Essex, four. Some 625 hourly-paid and 55 white-collar jobs are to go.

A Ford spokesman stressed there would be no compulsory redundancies and that some jobs would go through early retirement.

Flo Clucas, deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, said that it was disappointing when any jobs were lost in the area: "Ford is an extremely important part of the Merseyside economy and with the advent of the `Baby Jag', we hoped we would be seeing an improved job situation. We will do all we can to minimise the impact of any job losses."

A line maintenance worker at the Halewood plant, who asked not to be named, said: "I haven't heard about it, but it's inevitable. It's going to happen across the board. I can imagine more job losses to come."

A group leader in charge of 12 men at the same works said: "I've only just heard the news myself on the radio. I will be one to go if it's true. It's sad especially for the younger lads. I am 52 now and I would say I'm out - it's as simple as that."