Engineers and support staff at Ford are threatening strike action over pay and working hours for the first time in the car company’s history.
Leaders of the 7,000 salaried employees have called for a ballot on industrial action after the company offered an 11% pay increase over three years, while hourly-paid manual workers last year agreed a pay rise of 11% and a reduction in hours from 39 to 37.5 – in effect a 15% increase.
The professional engineers are also angry over allegations that a surplus in their pension fund has been used to meet this reduction in working hours for blue-collar staff.
In the past, salaried staff contributed to a different fund from that of their shopfloor colleagues, which was in considerable deficit, but the manual workers recently voted to merge the two funds. Ford denies the funds released as a result will be used in this way. It said management teams and unions at each plant have been charged with offsetting the cost of reduced hours.
A company spokesman said Ford believes the offer provides the best framework for the future of its employees and its manufacturing operation in Britain.
The calls for industrial action are backed by the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union and the white-collar section of the Transport and General Workers Union. They claim engineers have faced rising workloads and longer hours over the past few years, with global competition in the automotive market requiring constant innovation to make cars cheaper.
Terry Pye, national secretary of the MSF, said the 7,000 staff are only asking for fairness in return for their loyal service.
The issue will now be balloted through a postal vote and a decision is likely to be announced on 3 February.