Union quits TUC in Ford race row

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The Independent Online
A 15,000-strong lorry drivers' union yesterday resigned from the TUC in a row provoked by an allegedly racist recruitment procedure at the Ford car plant in Dagenham.

The United Road Transport Union (Urtu) had faced suspension over claims that it had "poached" from the Transport and General Workers' Union some 300 truck drivers based at the Essex works. The drivers voted to join Urtu after the 890,000-strong TGWU took legal action against the system for selecting employees for the truck fleet. The T&G claimed the recruitment practices discriminated against members of ethnic minorities, but existing drivers disagreed, left the union and joined Urtu.

A spokesman for the smaller union denied "poaching" members and said the TUC's insistence that it should hand them back was unlawful. "Workers have the right to belong to the union of their choice," a spokesman said. "On the one hand the TUC was saying it expected unions to behave in accordance with the law - and on the other hand telling us to disobey the law ... We have not been treated fairly."

The lorry drivers' union said it would save pounds 25,000 by its decision, which it would spend on services to members. It had decided to quit the TUC rather than acquiesce in the suspension which was due to last until September's annual congress.

Bill Morris, leader of the TGWU, which has pointed out that only "two or three" of the 300 drivers were from ethnic minorities, said the union was committed to equality of opportunity. He urged the rebel drivers to rejoin his union.

John Monks, TUC general secretary, said he was "saddened and disappointed" by the decision and denied his organisation was breaking the law.

- Barrie Clement

Labour Editor