Members of the Unite union – the new organisation created from the recent merger of the Transport and General Workers Union and Amicus – including 700 delivery drivers from firms such as Ontime, ECM, Walon, Ansa, Auto UK and MCD – has been balloted on industrial action amid claims that Ford is trying to drive down rates of pay and remove long-term job security.
Strike action could mean that all Ford products, including Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo cars become trapped and unable to be delivered, causing a huge headache for the fleet industry.
Ford outsources around 60% of its vehicle movement with the rest done by its in-house Transport Operation, with most of that from the docks and railway stations on to holding centres where the delivery firms take over.
The row erupted following Ford’s announcement in April that it was to “market test” the contract it had with Ansa, which comes up for renewal at the end of the summer.
Speaking at a Unite conference, Ron Webb, national secretary for transport, said Ford’s decision to market test its car distribution carriers was a “clear attempt to undermine the job security and the terms and conditions of our members in those companies”.
The ballot result will be announced mid-July, with any subsequent action dependent on the outcome of the Ansa contract review later in the summer.
A spokesman for Ford said: “Ford’s existing five-year vehicle distribution contract with Autocar (the holding company for Ansa) expires in August 2007.
Ford has been in discussions with Ansa on contract renewal related to both existing work and possible new vehicle distribution networks that integrate the requirements of other Ford Motor Company brands.
“The company invited suppliers to market tender for the vehicle distribution options under consideration. Towards the end of April existing providers, including Autocar/Ansa, as well as new suppliers, were asked to tender for this work.
“Opening a new contract for tender is not unusual practice and will ensure that Ford can assess properly its requirements – in terms of cost and performance – against what services are available in the market place.
The tendering process will be concluded by the end of July/early August, with continued smooth vehicle distribution a priority.”