Walkout at Ford plant as pay talks continue

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of workers at car giant Ford's biggest UK plant have walked out on official strike over pay as national wage talks resumed between the company and unions.

Hundreds of workers at car giant Ford's biggest UK plant have walked out on official strike over pay as national wage talks resumed between the company and unions.

Around 400 toolmakers at the huge Dagenham plant in Essex went on strike in a long-running dispute over bonus payments.

The Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union said its members had been balloted and voted to take action after complaining that toolmakers in other plants, including Halewood on Merseyside, receive more money.

"If our members are receiving less than their counterparts, the problem clearly has to be resolved," said a union spokesman.

Meanwhile, union leaders were meeting company officials in central London at the start of three days of talks over a national pay and conditions claim.

Union officials rejected the company's opening offer of a 2% rise and an increase in line with inflation in the following two years, and warned there was "real anger" among workers.

The unions are seeking a two-hour cut in the working week from 39 to 37, arguing that Ford employees work more hours than other car workers in Europe.

Ford is also being pressed to pay a "substantial" increase in basic wages as well as improving holidays and allowances.

The unions argue that productivity at Ford plants in the UK has increased in recent years, including an 18% improvement at Dagenham.Factories at Halewood and Southampton have also seen double-figure productivity increases, they say.

Tony Woodley, national officer of the Transport and General Workers Union, said: "We consider working hours to be crucial in enhancing the livelihoods of Ford workers and helping them achieve a balance between home and work.

"Ford has seen year-on-year productivity improvements and workers deserve a decent settlement this year."

The talks cover 28,000 workers at 16 Ford plants.

Dagenham has been hit by several unofficial walkouts in recent months, mainly related to race issues.

The company's president, Jac Nasser, flew to London last month for talks with national union leaders and an agreement was reached.

But the atmosphere in parts of the Dagenham complex is still believed to be tense.

An incident in the factory's paintshop yesterday was understood to be race-related.

Thousands of workers staged a walkout from the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast yesterday in protest at the handling of a financial crisis that threatens to close theyard.

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