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Ford Workers Vote Thursday On Deal To End Strike

February 17, 1988

LONDON (AP) _ Negotiators reached agreement to end a 10-day strike that stopped production at Ford Motor Co.’s 22 plants in Britain. Company officials said if the deal is approved, operations could resume Monday.

The walkout since Feb. 7 cost the automaker more than $300 million.

In another labor development, 20,000 workers at Vauxhall Motors, the British subsidiary of another American auto giant, General Motors Corp., are scheduled to vote this week on whether to strike to demand an improved pension deal.

Negotiators for Ford and several unions reached a settlement Tuesday after Ford dropped its demand for a three-year contract and agreed to a two-year pact with total minimum pay hikes of 14 percent over two years, negotiators said.

Changes in working practices aimed at promoting flexibility, efficiency and productivity will be agreed to at the plant level, not imposed by management as Ford wanted, said Mick Murphy, chief negotaitor for the 12 unions involved.

Company and union officials said the agreement will be submitted to Ford’s 32,000 striking workers for a vote Thursday and if they approve it, the automaker could resume production next Monday.

″We see it as a truly historic victory, not only for Ford workers but for trade unionists up and down the country,″ Murphy said Tuesday after 9 1/2 hours of negotiations.

Legislator Barry Porter of the governing Conservative Party condemned the deal as a ″management climbdown″ that ″has national implications in relation to the government’s fight against inflation.

″It is quite clear that other industrial unions will take this ... as their benchmark for their claims in the future. I am horrified that a great company like Ford should have believed it was in their short-term interest to give in in this way.″

John Hougham, chief negotiator for the Ford Motor Co. Ltd., British subsidiary of the U.S. automaker, denied accusations the deal was a retreat by management resulting from pressure from the parent company in Detroit or Ford of Europe. He called the deal a ″potential victory for common sense.″

Hourly workers went on strike several days after contract talks broke down. It was Ford’s first walkout in Britain for nearly a decade.

Under the agreement reached, an assembly worker making a basic $320 a week will get $343 in the first year of the new contract, negotiators said.

There also will be a guarantee of 100 percent of basic wages if union members are laid off, increases in pensions benefits and a new sick pay plan.

Talks on making benefits for manual and white-collar workers equivalent will be completed within two years, and the company will agree to implement a new pay structure at the end of that period.

The strike prompted the layoff of more than 9,700 workers; disrupted production at a Ford plant in Genk, Belgium, which suffered a shortage of British-made parts; and threatened production at Ford plants in West Germany and Spain, which also rely on parts made at Ford’s British plants.

Ford has lost $40 million a day, at showroom prices, in lost British car production.

At Vauxhall, union leaders said 20,000 Vauxhall workers in Britain will vote in a few days whether to strike for a better pension deal.

Vauxhall is introducing a new plan before April, when new laws come into force making it illegal to accumulate a surplus in the pension fund. Union officials demand the surplus be used to improve penions benefits.

Update hourly