Unions seek urgent meeting with Ford

Published:  18 September, 2007

Job security is uppermost in the minds of union leaders at Unite - the union - after reports Ford had briefed politicians that it is planning to sell its British luxury car marques, Jaguar and Land Rover. At the time of going to press reports of the potential sale were still unconfirmed and Ford hadn't made any official statement although this was expected imminently.

Ford, which has been cutting costs in a bid to offset declining sales, sold sports car firm Aston Martin for £479m to a UK-led business group in March, as part of this continuing process.

Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, said the concern was for the thousands of members across the various UK plants in the West Midlands and on Merseyside. He said he understood Ford was looking at its options including sale but stressed that Land Rover was a profitable brand and Jaguar a significant marque in the luxury market. Ford had said that it had been looking at its options for a year, and that it was neither setting a timeframe for any decision, nor ruling out any options.

Jaguar employs about 10,000 staff at sites in Coventry, Birmingham, and Liverpool, while Land Rover workers number about 9000 in the West Midlands and Warwickshire.

"The important point here is that Ford is not looking for a 'fire' sale to the lowest bidder and Jaguar/Land Rover is firmly linked together”, Woodley said. "These are quality vehicles requiring high levels of continuing investment in development."

Dave Osborne, T&G section of Unite national secretary for the car industry, said the news of briefings via politicians had come as a surprise: "We are very concerned to hear these reports and we are seeking an urgent meeting with Jaguar/Land Rover.” He added: "We have been pressing for assurances for the future from Jaguar/Land Rover and will redouble those demands now."

The union said it was concerned to hear reports of private equity interest but would be raising the question with the company as to just what the future direction would be.

Unite (Amicus section) national officer, Roger Maddison, said: "We are seeking urgent meetings with Ford senior management because although local managers have denied the rumours of a sell off, the rumours persist.

"We believe Ford is hawking both Land Rover and Jaguar around the world's financial institutions and find it amazing that after the investments Ford has made in Jaguar over the last few years, that it would want to try and cut its losses now. These are very worrying times for the workforce. They have seen what has happened at Peugeot and need assurances about their job security."

Dave Osborne concluded: "We should not need the spectre of people like Alchemy, whose down-sizing reputation goes before them, to provide the answers we require."

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