By Max Clarke

Unite, Britain's biggest union, has today warned Ford it intends to ballot roughly 11,000 members for industrial action in response to the company's 'attack' on its current and ex-employees' pensions.

In early January Ford informed Unite it intends to use the CPI (consumer price index) to calculate its inflation linked increases to pension scheme payments, rather than the normally higher RPI (retail price index). The move means the financial loss to workers over the years will add up significantly, affecting workers currently employed by Ford and a further 30,000 ex-Ford workers who draw a company pension.

CPI is less than RPI in most years because it excludes housing and council tax costs. Over someone's whole retirement the change will add up to a significant loss. For example, if pensions paid today had been linked to CPI instead of RPI for the last 20 years they would now be 14 per cent lower.

Ford claim it has no choice but to follow the government's lead. But no scheme will be forced by the government to change to the CPI.

The union intends to ballot the Ford workforce nationally including its two Dagenham plants, Bridgend, Halewood, Daventry and Dunton. Ford's two engine plants in Dagenham and Bridgend manufacture two thirds of the engines Ford builds worldwide. The plants also build engines for Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo.

Unite national officer, Roger Maddison, said: "There is a real possibility of a national strike at Ford for the first time since the 1970s. Unite will not stand idly by while a company worth billions attempts to rob workers and vulnerable pensioners of potentially thousands of pounds.

"This is an opportunistic attack on over 40,000 current and former Ford workers. It is disgraceful and immoral for Ford to target pensioners who have spent a lifetime saving for their retirement and giving their best to the Ford Motor Company. We hope Ford quickly realise it has misjudged the strength of feeling amongst the workforce and step back from this decision."