Unions heat up Ford race row

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The row over recruitment procedures for Ford truck drivers reached a new intensity yesterday as a union was accused of "compromising with racism".

In his most outspoken remarks yet, Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, alleged that a rival TUC-affiliate was "more compliant" on issues of racial discrimination.

Mr Morris will urge in TUC-sponsored talks that the United Road Transport Union (Urtu) should withdraw its offer of membership to the T&G drivers who are trying to preserve a selection system which allegedly discriminates against black people.

A spokesman for Urtu said yesterday: "Everything the T&G says about the issue is a pack of unsubstantiated lies." He said there was no evidence to support the assertions of the transport workers' union. Urtu had a long record of opposing discrimination.

At the behest of the T&G leader, the TUC general secretary, John Monks, is holding meetings with representatives from both unions in an attempt to resolve the dispute. Mr Morris will also meet Ford managers to try to persuade the company to change the procedures.

The 300 drivers, based in Dagenham, Essex, have sought to leave the T&G following its fight to change the recruitment system. The transport workers' union is backing seven black members at industrial tribunals in January. The seven allege that the selection procedures are inherently racist. While between 40 and 45 per cent of production workers at Dagenham are of ethnic minority origin, only 2 per cent of the drivers are black.

Truck fleet supervisors test the aptitude of applicants for the much- sought after pounds 30,000-a-year jobs with minimal input from senior management. It is alleged that the jobs are often passed down from father to son.

The lorry drivers deliver parts throughout western Europe and because stocks are kept low, a strike by truck fleet personnel would bring most Ford factories to a halt within days.