Ford drops its jobs threat as sales increase

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The Independent Online
FORD yesterday withdrew the threat of compulsory redundancies for manual workers because of increasing car sales in Britain.

The company said the 295 production employees would be kept on because up to 100,000 more vehicles would be sold this year than originally estimated.

Union leaders, however, registered scepticism about the 'magical discovery' of an upturn in the market in the face of a strike ballot and the need for an uninterrupted launch of the Mondeo, the company's middle-range fleet car.

Bob Hill, the company's new personnel director, said there were 'fragile' signs of recovery and output would not need to be reduced to the levels previously predicted. Ford executives said that sales for the past five months were up on last year, which was the worst 12 months on record.

Mr Hill conceded that the decision was also prompted by the need to maintain good relations with employees.

Management warned that they would not withdraw the threat of compulsory redundancy hanging over 262 white-collar staff whose leaders are due to meet senior management on 23 March. Nearly two-thirds of salaried staff have voted to strike over the dismissals.

Ford says that manual jobs can be saved because production would be higher, but white-collar jobs were due to go under an efficiency scheme which would not be withdrawn.

The company refused to guarantee there would be no need for compulsory severance for hourly paid workers in future. Mr Hill also indicated there would be further voluntary redundancy programmes later this year.

Jack Adams, chairman of the union team negotiating on behalf of 24,500 manual employees, said the company would be faced with a strike ballot if it ever contemplated shedding jobs through compulsory redundancy.

The new output schedules would come into force next month, management said. Production of Fiestas at Dagenham, now 980 a day, would be cut to 750 instead of 740. At Halewood, the number of Escorts and Orions coming off the production line would drop from 810 a day to 780 rather than 700.

An extra 225 jobs at Halewood would be retained and 50 at Dagenham. A further 20 people would be kept on at Bridgend, in South Glamorgan, where a Jaguar engine project would be brought forward.

A leaked document suggesting the loss of 1,300 jobs in the general services division dealing mainly with the transport of components was withdrawn.

In the coal industry, leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers yesterday set 2 April as the date for a 24-hour strike in protest at pit closures. The mining union hopes for a yes vote in a ballot of 68,000 British Rail workers so that they can take action on the same day.

The National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers, which represents pit safety officials, recorded a 62 per cent vote in favour of joining the NUM stoppage. However, the union's constitution dictates that a two-thirds majority is required before industrial action is sanctioned.

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