Ford is reported to be preparing generous redundancy terms to avert a backlash over plans to end car assembly at its Dagenham plant.
The company is expected to announce payments of up to £55,000 for the first 1,350 workers leaving the plant, according to the Financial Times newspaper.

It is thought all employees over 50 will be able to leave with full pension entitlements.

Full details of the redundancy terms are expected to be revealed in May, the newspaper said, when Ford also plans to announce a Europe-wide restructuring of its operations.

Ford’s assembly line workers are estimated to earn £20,000-£25,000 a year, with the average age at about 45.

Unions representing almost 20,000 workers at the company have already warned that closure plans could lead to industrial action.

Prime Minister Tony Blair held talks with Ford chief executive Jac Nasser in March to discuss the firm’s restructuring plans.

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Unions have attacked Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers’ lack of action

The government is anxious to avoid a further blow to Britain’s motor industry, with 10,000 jobs already in jeopardy in the Midlands, as a result of BMW’s sell-off of Rover.

Ford axed 1,500 jobs at Dagenham in February. It is widely reported to be poised to cut 3,000 more by closing down assembly lines.

Mr Blair’s intervention signals a high political priority to stemming job losses in the manufacturing industry, which has suffered because of the pound’s strength abroad.

Ford’s profits in Europe fell sharply last year from £200m to just £29m.

Unions questioned whether the Department of Trade and Industry has done enough to save jobs.

“Tony Blair’s intervention is very welcome, but you have to ask where is the DTI? Time and time again they refuse to intervene even when thousands of jobs are at risk,” a spokesman for the GMB union said.

“It is time the DTI pulled its finger out and realised that its main task is the promotion and protection of British jobs,”