A major Ford UK union is threatening strike action in protest at what it claims is the company's intention to close its final salary pension scheme to new entrants - a move the automaker strenuously refutes.

Any work stoppage would be the first strike at the manufacturer in the UK since the 1970s, but the Unite union, representing around 2,500 Ford workers and which walked out of talks with Ford last night (9 November), says closure of the final salary scheme for new staff could lead to its ultimate demise.

"From the outset this was an issue that was unacceptable," a Unite spokesman told just-auto. "If the company are not prepared to recognise our members want the final salary scheme to remain, then maybe it will come to a point where there will be a ballot [for] strike action.

"We are saying it is the thin edge of the wedge. Obviously there is always space to negotiate, but the basic proposal from the company is unacceptable. The company needs to come back and talk about this, the ball is in the company's court."

Ford said it was "disappointed" by Unite's decision to walk out of salaried pay talks, which it said were due to continue until tomorrow.

The manufacturer added it "categorically confirmed it had no plans to close its pension funds to existing members and that the funds remain open to existing members."

However, it noted its defined benefit pension funds were "significantly in deficit" and that around 80% of all private sector firms had now closed their similar schemes to new staff.

The breakdown in talks also follows those with Ford's hourly paid staff who rejected a similar offer yesterday.

"We call upon Ford management to restart negotiations with an open mind, rather than demanding changes to long standing agreements that could lead to Ford's first strike since the 1970's," said Unite national officer, Roger Maddison.
 
Ford added it was willing and available to resume discussions.

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