Ford to shed 4,000 jobs as demand for cars falls

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The Independent Online
FORD is to shed more than 4,000 jobs in response to poor sales and a flat market forecast for the next 12 months. It is the company's third large-scale jobs reduction this year. Unless there is a dramatic sales improvement, Nissan will overtake Ford in the league table of domestic manufacturers.

The latest Ford cuts are part of a European workforce reduction which will see 10,000 redundancies in 1993. The British job losses, mainly at the assembly plants of Dagenham, east London, and Halewood on Merseyside, are to be accompanied by a reduction in production of both the Ford Fiesta and Escort models.

Most of the redundancies will take place before April, although some are scheduled for the next year. Ford, the sales market leader in Britain, has suffered most among the large manufacturers from a fall in domestic demand and faces strong competition from Toyota and Nissan as well as a revitalised Rover.

John Hougham, Ford's personnel director, said: 'People in Britain are not buying cars, so we are making less. We are keeping our plants and capacity intact. We will be ready to take advantage of any upturn in the market when it comes.'

The job losses include about 1,000 white-collar staff and 200 manual workers who have already volunteered for redundancy under Ford's latest severance programme which expired last week. About 660 hourly-paid jobs will go at Dagenham and 470 at Halewood. Volunteers will be sought at Ford's plants at Bridgend, South Wales, and Southampton.

White-collar jobs will be lost in all 21 company sites as well, including Ford's office headquarters at Brentwood, Essex. About 480 jobs will go in 1994 when Ford contracts out its seat-making operations to a specialist company.

Mr Hougham said he hoped the job reductions could be achieved by voluntary means, but warned of compulsory redundancies if there were not enough volunteers. Union leaders estimate that Ford's British output next year will be about 240,000 cars, compared with more than 340,000 two years ago. Nissan said earlier this week that it is scheduled to manufacture 270,000 cars from its plant in Sunderland in 1993 with more than 80 per cent exported.

Toyota is planning to produce 100,000 cars from its new plant near Derby by next year. Rover, the largest producer, makes about 500,000 units a year.

Jack Adams, deputy general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union and chairman of the union negotiating team, said Ford had been a victim of the poor state of the British market. But he warned: 'If one Ford worker is made compulsorily redundant we will ballot our members for industrial action.'

Mr Hougham hoped that there would be no need for further job losses next year although normal 'efficiency' measures would continue. Production at Dagenham will be cut from 904 vehicles a day to 740 and at Halewood from 810 to 700 in the new year.

Jim Thomas, national officer for the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union said: 'Our members are paying the price for a recession they did not create.'

Ford has cut its British workforce by 3,649 to 33,500 this year as car sales refused to recover from a dramatic fall since the peak year of 1989. The company is predicting that the market in 1993 will be 'totally flat' at 1.55 units.

It will not be able to make up lost sales in Britain with exports as it believes sales in Europe will also decline. Ford's European market forecasts of 12 million cars is one of the industry's most pessimistic.

Two of Ford's German plants are also to experience significant job losses. More than 1,200 manual and 1,100 white-collar workers are to go at Cologne, where Fiestas and Granadas are made, while a further 300 manual and 300 staff will go at Saarlouis, which makes the Escort model. More white-collar job losses are expected in Ford's subsidiaries in Spain, Belgium and France.