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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK

Business: The Company File

Ford workers walkout

Tension has been rising at Dagenham in recent weeks

Workers at Ford's largest UK factory walked out on Tuesday, in a move thought to be connected to recent allegations of racism and bullying at the plant.

Production of the top-selling Fiesta car was hit by the unofficial strike by a reported 1,300 workers at the Dagenham plant in Essex.

Tension has been high at the factory in recent weeks.

A Ford spokesman said: "We are unaware of the reasons for the action, but we are investigating to find out as soon as possible."

Workers in the paint, trim and assembly areas of the factory joined the walkout.

Further racism incident

Union shop stewards have asked the Commission for Racial Equality to launch a formal investigation into recent incidents at the factory.

Last month an Asian worker revealed he had been subjected to a torrent of racist abuse and graffiti.

There was a further incident last week when an Asian shop steward was allegedly pushed by a white foreman.

The company then refused calls from union leaders for the foreman to be suspended, although the man was told to stay away from the shop floor.

Unions have complained that local managers refuse to act on complaints.

Senior shop stewards reported back to workers on Tuesday morning on a meeting they held with local managers last week. The workers walked out after hearing from their stewards.

TGWU calling for summit

It is the first time there has been a mass walkout at the plant for 10 years.

"There is absolute outrage at the company's position on a whole range of issues ranging from bullying to equality of treatment," said one worker.

The Transport and General Workers Union's general secretary, Bill Morris, has already called for a meeting with Ford president Jac Nasser to discuss the situation at Dagenham.

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