The stoppage at all 21 plants is timed to cause maximum embarrassment to the company as it launches the Mondeo, the new middle-range fleet car designed to help Ford out of the recession.
Production could be disrupted and white-collar employees intend to demonstrate at receptions organised to promote the new car.
The Manufacturing Science Finance union and the white- collar section of the Transport and General Workers' Union calculate that the company is now 70 short of its target of 2,200 job losses. Management yesterday said that some employees would be forced out on 16 April if their objective was not reached by 30 March.
More 24-hour strikes are likely if staff are made compulsorily redundant and union officials believe foremen at some factories, including Dagenham in east London, could walk out today. A Ford spokesman said the redundancies were part of 4,350 job losses being sought in Europe, and targets on the Continent had been met voluntarily.
Bob Hill, Ford's personnel director, said he did not believe Thursday's strike would have any impact on the launch of the Mondeo. Following the threat of a strike ballot by manual workers, management guaranteed that no hourly paid workers would be forced to leave.
Leaders of MSF are also expected to hold a strike ballot at the Rolls-Royce aerospace plant in Bristol where up to 700 workers face compulsory redundancy.
It was announced last night that the train drivers' union Aslef is to vote on industrial action over the planned sell-off of British Rail. The ballot will close on 7 April.
British Rail is hoping to meet leaders of the Rail Maritime and Transport union in an attempt to avert the 24-hour strike over job losses due to take place on 2 April.
Gavin Laird, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, yesterday urged demonstrators not involved in the bitter dispute at Timex in Dundee to stay away from the electronics plant.
Leaders of 750,000 local authority workers yesterday announced their intention to claim a pounds 700 flat-rate pay increase worth about 5.5 per cent on the pay bill. The Government is insisting on a ceiling of 1.5 per cent for the public sector.