Ford workers turn down 4.75% offer

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Labour Editor

Leaders of 22,000 production workers at Ford last night rejected an inflation- breaching pay increase of 4.75 per cent and warned there could be a ballot on industrial action.

The two-part offer, described by the company as "final", gives 4.5 per cent in the second year or the inflation rate plus 0.5 per cent, whichever is higher.

The proposed settlement will go out for consultation in the 13 plants, with a recommendation from representatives that it be rejected. Union leaders will call for talks with management next Wednesday in an attempt to improve the offer.

Despite the union's rejection the offer is much higher than most other offers in industry and will form a target for other workers. Even at their proposed level, Ford's offer would undermine ministers' efforts to suppress pay expectations. The 4.75 per cent figure is substantially higher than the 3.5 per cent on offer to 10,000 Vauxhall workers, who are expected to vote for industrial action in a ballot, the result of which is due out on Monday.

Tony Woodley, chairman of the union negotiators, said they appreciated the seriousness of the situation, but had rejected the proposal unanimously.

"If, as we expect, the offer is rejected by the membership then we would of course move towards a ballot on industrial action." He said the company proposals did not meet employees' aspirations.

A Ford spokesman registered the company's disappointment at the union's reaction but pointed out that it would be put to the workforce and that the offer constituted the best in the industry.