Ford staff strike over new-starter pay and pensions

Staff at the car manufacturing giant are staging a 24-hour strike as the company tries to drive through changes to its pay machinery...

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Ford has had a rough ride recently, with its European operation losing ground to its competitors on the continent, and now its UK staff have decided not to show up for work. From 6am today until the same time tomorrow, staff at its Halewood, Dagenham, Bridgend and Southampton sites have taken their foot off the gas over pay and its final salary pension scheme. 

The union staging the walkout, Unite, says Ford is insisting on closing the final salary pension scheme to new starters, and that it also intends to introduce lower rates of pay for new entrants, creating a ‘two tier workforce’. The work that new entrants are required to do will be the same as many existing employees, but pay will not be aligned, according to Unite. Offering no handbrake turns, Ford maintains that the dispute relates to a specific group of employees and that the industrial action does not reflect the views of the ‘majority’ of its workforce.

Unite represents around 1,200 Ford employees, and says that staff are ‘furious that the company wants to close the final salary pension scheme to new starters and lower their rates of pay.’ The union has a long history of holding Ford to account over its employment policies. Back in 1968, it helped female machinists take on their employer to get equal pay for equal work. Their story went on to be made into the hit movie, Made in Dagenham. 

It is worth noting the Ford is far from alone in dispensing with final salary pension schemes. Those beauties are on their way out across the board and there is little a company can do when such schemes reach a point of being completely unaffordable. 

Ford’s management will need to take a close look under the bonnet of its UK operation if it is to claw back any market share against European competitors. Its major global rivals, Hyundai, Honda, Daimler and Volkswagen all posted profit increases for the first quarter of 2012. The Blue Oval’s European business, meanwhile, made a $149m loss due to sales being down by around 60,000 cars.

The manufacturer is doing well in North America, but if it is serious about reaching its target of increasing sales by 50% (around eight million cars) by 2015, it needs to get its European act together, and fast. Any decent acceleration will need a well-tuned engine, and striking workers can only be slamming on the brakes. Keep those workers happy, Ford, or your European business will be in a wheel spin…

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