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Ford Brit. Plants Check Race Status

October 25, 1999

LONDON (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. chief executive Jac Nasser agreed today to set up committees to monitor racial equality at each of the company’s 13 factories in Britain after complaints of abuse sparked a walkout at the largest of the plants.

The plan is aimed at achieving equality of opportunity in the workplace and ensuring that employees of diverse ethnic backgrounds are free from harassment.

Ford officials signed the pact with leaders of four British labor unions, agreeing to review diversity and equality at the company’s British operations and to appoint a manager responsible for diversity issues.

The two sides agreed on the measures after Nasser took the unusual step of intervening personally to try to defuse tensions at the Ford factory in Dagenham in east London, where at least 800 employees walked off their jobs to protest alleged racist abuses and bullying by some plant foremen.

The spontaneous, one-day walkout earlier this month halted production of Ford Fiesta models bound for sale in Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Union officials said the walkout was triggered by a series of incidents. An Asian worker claimed last month that he had been subjected to racist abuse and Ku Klux Klan graffiti. Later, a white foreman allegedly pushed an Asian shop steward.

Before the meeting, Transport and General Workers Union chief Bill Morris said the case of Sukjit Parmar, who claimed to be a victim of intense racist abuse, exposed Ford’s ``callous and systematic failure″ to take seriously the need to ensure all its employees have equal opportunities.

Nasser met with Morris and other union leaders in London while here for other company business, Ford spokeswoman Anne-Marie Chatterton said.

The talks were to have been held Saturday, but had to be postponed due to a delay in Nasser’s flight from the United States.

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