Truck workers vote on action

Transport union leader accuses Iveco-Ford of asset stripping its Langley operation

By Anthony Gould

The 450 workers at Iveco-Ford’s truck assembly operation at Langley, Berkshire, were due to be balloted yesterday on whether to fight a proposed closure.

A yes vote would result in a postal ballot of the workforce over industrial action.

Alan Fox, chairman of Iveco Ford Truck, announced the closure last Friday. It follows the completion of a Europe-wide strategic review of Iveco’s manufacturing capacity in each market segment.

In May, production of right-hand-drive Cargo and Super Cargo trucks will be switched to Brescia, northern Italy, which already makes 16,000 units a year – twice the number made at Langley. On top of the 450 job losses at Langley there will be another 29 jobs lost through a voluntary redundancy programme at Watford and Winsford.

The metal body panels are already imported from Italy; and the engines are made in Germany.

Tony Woodley, transport union T&G’s national secretary, has suggested that the closure might be asset stripping. The assembly plant is on a 25ha site, in the M4 corridor, and has an estimated value of up to £65m.

Woodley said: `A cynical person might suggest that this is asset stripping and property speculation of the worst sort.’

Although Iveco-Ford is a 52:48 joint venture between Fiat of Italy and Ford, the freehold for the site is owned by Ford. The company was created in 1986, when Ford sold its UK truck operation to Iveco.

Fox said it was still investigating the possibility of maintaining a significant presence at Langley. This would, he said, include services such as specialist engineering and vehicle preparation areas to meet the UK’s market conditions.

The Cargo has been Britain’s best selling truck for years – last year accounting for 36% of sales in the 7.5 tonne category – but the sector is in decline.

* Unions representing 3,000 workers at Peugeot’s Coventry plant are meeting today to discuss industrial action following a workforce ballot over pay and conditions.