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Sunday, 14 May, 2000, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Ford's 'unfair quick-fix'

A former Government minister and a senior union official have joined forces to criticise Ford's decision to end car production in the UK.

Former minister Geoffrey Robinson said that the problems Ford faced in Europe were based on its poor sales in Germany, rather than in its largest market, the UK.

Ford car production in Europe
Mondeo - Genk, Belgium
Focus - Saarlouis, Germany
Fiesta - Cologne, Germany
Ka, Focus - Valencia, Spain
"Ford is seeking to solve its market share problems in Germany by cutting its productive capacity in the UK - and that seems very unfair," he told BBC TV's Breakfast with Frost.

Senior union official Tony Woodley also attacked the decision to end car production at Ford's Dagenham plant, with the loss of at least 2,000 jobs.

Geoffrey Robinson
Geoffrey Robinson: it seems unfair
Staff are considering strike action after the car giant confirmed it would stop making cars there from 2002.

The halt in manufacturing follows a reorganisation of Ford's European operations which will bring the loss of 1,900 jobs, on top of 1,350 job cuts announced earlier this year.

The unions, however, say the real number of redundancies is closer to 5,000 because Ford's numbers do not include job losses with caterers, cleaners and suppliers.

Mr Woodley, who heads the car industry side of the transport and general workers union, said that Ford's decision was not based on any productivity problem at the East London car plant.

Ford restructuring
Cost reductions: $1bn
Dagenham car production ends 2002
Plants closed, sold in Portugal, Poland and Belarus
Dagenham engine plant: $500m investment
Nine new Ford cars every year for five years
Employee support programme worth $12m
Commercial vehicle engineering moves from US to UK - 360 new jobs
He said the reason was Ford's desire to make "rapid improvements" to its finances in Europe as a whole, where it has made a loss recently.

Despite the UK being its largest market, and profitable, it was chosen for the axe because employment laws are more flexible than in Europe, he said.

"They can not make these rapid changes in Germany, Belgium or indeed Spain because, quite simply, the laws over there don't allow people to be sacked quickly or cheaply," said Mr Woodley.

He also called for the Government to take action to protect the car industry in the UK.

"The most profitable car companies in Europe are Volkswagen and Renault, both of which have at least partial state ownership," he added.

Tony Woodley
Tony Woodley: UK laws to blame
French and German governments had stepped in to help their car makers when they were faced with short term difficulties, because they recognised the long term importance of the industry, he said.

The comments on Sunday come as signs grow that staff at Dagenham are considering taking strike action as a result of the job cuts planned.

Shop steward Peter Singh said there was a distinct possibility of strike action, despite a Ford announcement that it would invest 330m in the plant, creating 500 jobs.

"People feel let down. They were told they had a future here but it doesn't look like they have," he said.

Nick Scheele, chairman of Ford Europe, said on Friday that Dagenham would become Ford's "global centre" for the production of diesel engines.

The unions are particularly upset that two years ago Ford had promised further investment in new car production at Dagenham.

Ford has capacity to produce 2.25 million cars in its European factories, but sold only 1.65 million during the past year.

Its share of the German market is 6%, compared to General Motors' 16% and Volkswagen's 21%.

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See also:

12 May 00 | Business
What's left of the UK car industry
12 May 00 | Business
Ford letter to staff
12 May 00 | UK Politics
Ten-point plan for Dagenham
12 May 00 | Business
Analysis: Europe's car industry
10 May 00 | Business
Rover looks to future
24 Apr 00 | Business
Unions pledge fight for Ford
18 Feb 00 | Business
Ford slashes 1,500 UK jobs
03 Feb 00 | Business
Ford's European troubles
10 May 00 | Business
Blair to fight for Ford jobs
13 May 00 | Business
Dagenham 'strike threat'
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