Ford announces cutbacks as exports fall

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The Independent Online
THE FORD Motor Company yesterday announced more cutbacks in production because of falling exports.

Management blamed the general economic conditions in Europe and a consequent drop in demand for vehicles for the decision and not the high value of sterling, which prompted the threat of redundancies at Rover.

The cutbacks affect Ford's biggest plant, at Dagenham, which was already on a four-day week.

The company announced a further eight days in November and December on which it will not be producing Fiesta cars and vans at the Essex factory. Some 45 per cent of the vehicles are exported, largely to the Continent, but also to Brazil and Mexico. All 6,000 workers affected will still turn up for work on the "down" days and will be paid, a Ford spokesman said.

He said there had been no compulsory redundancies for 30 years at Ford and there were no plans for job losses or lay-offs. "We are hoping it is a temporary reduction in demand but we are keeping our eye on the situation." There was no question of reopening wage negotiations to cut costs. Ford employees in Britain are due an increase of 4.25 per cent next month. Vehicles will not be produced on single shifts scheduled for 20 and 27 November; two shifts on 21 December and a day shift the following day. Day- shift production may also be halted on 4,11 and 18 December. Output will be cut by up to 4,000 vehicles.

John Redwood, the Opposition spokesman on industry, said the car industry was being hit by government policy.

"One day after Peter Mandelson (Secretary of State for Trade and Industry) said that difficulties in the car industry were just a problem at Rover, Ford announces it is cutting production at its Dagenham plant.

"Will he change policy or will he blame the workers at Ford as well as at Rover?"

An official at the Transport and General Workers' Union said that while the drop in output was "regrettable", it was infinitely preferable to more drastic measures to balance production and demand. "Workers are not being made redundant and we are not seeing the work transferred elsewhere. That is important."