Pay rows signal a season of strife

Industry is bracing itself for months of tough wage negotiations this year following a series of unofficial strikes at Ford’s Dagenham plant over pay. Some 200 Ford workers walked out during Monday’s day shift, preventing production of 600 Fiesta cars. Ford has offered a two-year pay deal with a rise of 2.75% this year and […]

Industry is bracing itself for months of tough wage negotiations this year following a series of unofficial strikes at Ford’s Dagenham plant over pay.

Some 200 Ford workers walked out during Monday’s day shift, preventing production of 600 Fiesta cars.

Ford has offered a two-year pay deal with a rise of 2.75% this year and the same next year – an offer which has been rejected by union officials. Further talks start on 19 November.

Ford’s pay settlements have traditionally been seen as a yardstick for pay offers throughout manufacturing and the strong reaction from unions could set the tone for bad-tempered negotiations elsewhere.

Last month employment law firm Dibb Lupton Alsop predicted widespread industrial tension this year in what it claimed could become the worst ‘winter of discontent’ since the 1970s.

Ford’s pay offer comes amid signs that the economy is faltering, with a series of figures showing poorer than expected performance. The headline rate of inflation edged up to 3.6% with the underlying rate at 2.7% still overshooting the Government’s 2.5% target.

Manufacturing output and industrial production were both down in August, following increases in July.

Figures from the Engineering Employers’ Federation show that pay rises in the engineering sector are keeping pace with inflation.

At the lower end of the range of settlements, Komatsu paid rises of 2.8% from March, while a large proportion of other engineering companies paid 3%.

VSEL brought in a 3% rise linked to teamworking and changes in shift allowances. Some machine tools companies have offered over 4%.