Car unions renew strike threat in campaign for shorter week

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The Independent Online

In a resumption of one of the most successful campaigns of industrial action since the war, three of the biggest car companies have been targeted for disruption in support of a shorter working week. Leaders of 1.5 million engineering workers yesterday threatened stoppages at Ford, Vauxhall and Peugeot Talbot, to force management to cut the working week from 39 to 37 hours. Union leaders will draw up a list of companies at a conference in two weeks.

Among companies targeted for selective strikes in the first phase of the campaign in 1991-92 were British Aerospace, Dowty and Rolls Royce Aero Engines. Most agreed to cut hours of work, but the action was abandoned after the recession hit profits.

John Allen, executive council member of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union said more than a million workers in 1,800 companies won a cut in the working week.

He said that while a 35-hour week was the objective, the first priority would be a "mopping up operation". Companies which signed shorter hours agreements but later reneged on the deals would be targeted.

"Many of our members are still being employed on 39 and 40 hours a week and this situation cannot be tolerated any longer. I warn any employer who attacks our members, you attack one and you attack all of us."

A fund that was set up to finance the campaign four years ago, still contained pounds 9m. "That will be the phase two war chest," Mr Allen said.

He added that if Ford and Vauxhall wanted to apply European practices in marketing their products, that should be extended to working hours.

A spokesman for Ford said its two-year deal ended in November and management expected working hours would be an issue to be addressed.