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March 24, 2003

BRAZIL: Strike halts Ford production – report

Production at Ford's plant in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia was halted for a second day on Friday due to a strike over wages, Reuters reported, citing the local union. Aurino Pedreira do Nascimento Filho, president of the Bahian Metalworkers Union, told Reuters that the Camacari plant's 4,700 workers planned to meet at the factory gates on Monday to decide whether to return to work.

By bcusack

Production at Ford’s plant in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia was halted for a second day on Friday due to a strike over wages, Reuters reported, citing the local union.

Aurino Pedreira do Nascimento Filho, president of the Bahian Metalworkers Union, told Reuters that the Camacari plant’s 4,700 workers planned to meet at the factory gates on Monday to decide whether to return to work.

Reuters said the Ford factory, which produces some 550 to 600 Fiesta and new EcoSport models per day, suspended operations on Thursday after workers rejected an offer of an 8.1% wage rise and cut in transport and meal costs to ease a salary discrepancy with the local market, he said.

According to Reuters, Ford’s press department on Thursday said the company and union had agreed on the wage offer, which was put forward by the local labour office which is mediating the dispute, but workers had then thrown it out after an assembly on Friday.

“As a result the decision goes to the regional labor court,” a Ford spokeswoman told Reuters, adding that she did not know when a ruling might be given.

The union’s Pedreira told Reuters that the dispute centreed on a discrepancy between local wages and those paid by Ford. The average Bahian metalworker earned about 800 reais ($US230) per month, while Ford paid an average of about 550 reais per month, he said.

According to Reuters, the Bahian plant is the only producer of the company’s new EcoSport sports utility model, a vehicle Ford hopes will take the market by storm when it is launched at the end of the month. But Pedreira said the strike could pose problems for the new model’s debut.

“There is a request from Mexico and they are worried as they have delivery deadlines and the way it (the strike) is going they are not going to meet them,” Pedreira told Reuters.

The union leader told Reuters about 1,700 workers at the modern Camacari plant, which was opened in October 2001 after an investment of $1.9 billion, were directly employed by Ford.

The rest were staff from more than 30 suppliers which Ford has united under the same roof to improve production efficiencies, Reuters added.

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