Union leaders suspend Ford ballot

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The Independent Online

Union leaders at Ford yesterday suspended a ballot on industrial action in defence of car assembly jobs at the company's Dagenham plant after it emerged that most of the workers concerned had applied for voluntary redundancy.

Union leaders at Ford yesterday suspended a ballot on industrial action in defence of car assembly jobs at the company's Dagenham plant after it emerged that most of the workers concerned had applied for voluntary redundancy.

Management has offered severance terms as part of its plan to slim down the workforce which would see employees receiving payoffs of between £20,000 and £60,000. After talks with management yesterday, trade union leaders are understood to have postponed mass meetings and agreed to meet the company on 2 November.

Ford plans to stop car production at Dagenham in 2002, costing up to 3,500 jobs, according to employees' leaders. Company representatives yesterday gave more details about the plan to invest £350m in the Essex complex, including the establishment of a diesel engine plant, creating 600 jobs.

Yesterday, union leaders, however, were still calling for car production at the Essex plant to be continued. Duncan Simpson, of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union said: "We want to keep car assembly at Dagenham. The simple truth is that if you are in the car manufacturing business, you've got to make cars." Tony Woodley of the Transport and General Workers' Union said his organisation welcomed the investment in engines but it did not replace the jobs lost by the abandonment of car assembly.

Last month Jac Nasser, Ford's chief executive, indicated that the Essex plant would close completely if employees took industrial action. David Thursfield, president of Ford Europe, said yesterday that under management's plans Dagenham would be the company's "global centre of excellence" for diesel engines. He calculated the number of job losses within Dagenham's vehicle operation at around 1,300. Mr Thursfield said that after the first quarter of 2002, Ford would employ more than 5,000 people on the Dagenham Estate.

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