Ford says strike at Russian factory could disrupt car supplies

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MOSCOW, November 20 (RIA Novosti) - A workers' strike at a Ford car manufacturing factory near St. Petersburg could disrupt car deliveries to Russian customers, the company's public relations manager in Russia said on Tuesday.

Workers stopped the Ford Focus production line at midnight (9:00 p.m. GMT) on Monday, demanding higher wages from March 2008. In response, the plant's administration limited access to the factory by blocking the electronic passes of the striking workers, citing safety.

"The cars that were ordered earlier will be produced later and, correspondingly, their delivery will be delayed due to the strike," Yekaterina Kulinenko said, adding that the plant's daily output was 300 Ford Focus vehicles.

Kulinenko said the company's management was prepared to hold talks with the plant's trade union only after the strike was over.

In early November, the company's workers held a 19-hour strike, taking action after management had repeatedly rejected pay rise demands. A court later upheld a suit by Ford demanding that the strike be postponed so that an agreement can be reached between unions and management.

Average wages at the U.S. auto giant's sole Russian plant are about 21,000 rubles ($850) a month, according to the factory administration.

A previous dispute between management and employees was resolved after a one-day strike in March 2007, when the plant administration made concessions, concluding a new collective labor contract providing higher wages and increased employment benefits.

Ford produces its Focus models in Russia, and plans to increase output from the current 72,000 cars to 100,000 cars a year by 2009. The carmaker also plans to launch the production of 25,000 Mondeo models a year.

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