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Racism Alleged at Ford in Britain

October 22, 1999

LONDON (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. chief executive Jac Nasser plans to meet Saturday with British union leaders to try to resolve complaints of racist treatment and bullying of minority workers at Ford’s biggest car plant in Britain.

Nasser agreed to meet in London with Bill Morris, head of the Transport and General Workers Union, and other union officials, Ford spokeswoman Anne-Marie Chatterton said Friday.

The two sides hope to defuse tensions at the company’s factory in Dagenham in east London, where at least 800 employees walked off their jobs earlier this month to protest alleged abuses by some plant foremen.

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

Nasser’s personal involvement underscores the gravity of the problem.

``Obviously, we’re taking this seriously,″ Chatterton said, adding that Ford has a policy of ``zero tolerance″ toward racist behavior at the workplace.

Union officials said the walkout was sparked 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.

Union officials asked the government’s Commission for Racial Equality to launch a formal investigation into what the TGW official called a culture of racism at the plant. The TGW represents more than half of the plant’s 4,500 workers.

``Ford takes matters of equal opportunities extremely seriously, and it is our aim to ensure a workplace that is fair and free from discrimination and harassment of any kind,″ said Nick Scheele, president of Ford’s European operations, soon after the strike ended.

Nasser’s meetings are not expected to extend past Saturday, Chatterton said.

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