Ford faces an inquiry by the Commission for Racial Equality at its Dagenham production plant if it does not draw up an anti-racism action plan in line with a strict timetable.
The CRE has suspended an immediate investigation after assurances from Ford that it would comply with the tough measures laid down in a meeting last month.
Allegations of racial discrimination and harassment at Dagenham over a four-year period led the CRE to launch the probe.
Newly-appointed national diversity manager Kamaljeet Jandu will be heading the drive to change the culture at the Dagenham plant.
He told Personnel Today that the Dagenham crisis had national implications for the way in which HR departments dealt with incidences of racism at work.
He said, “It’s not about being politically correct – our approach is based on a need to provide a professional service. In some major work areas in Britain like the West Midlands, 40 per cent of the available workforce will be from ethnic minorities by 2005.
“There are major demographic changes going on and if companies are going to find workers to cover skills shortages, they will have to tackle these issues.”
Jandu, who was previously race equality adviser at the TUC, has drawn up an ongoing plan to combat problems with institutional racism raised at an industrial tribunal.
Nick Scheele, chairman of Ford Europe, last week agreed with CRE commissioners that terms for a race equality practices review would be agreed by 13 October.
Ford must also draw up an action plan in response to the findings of the review, which must be completed by 12 April next year.
The CRE expects Ford corporate leadership to be held accountable for the implementation of the measures.
Its decision to use its statutory powers of formal investigation was based on evidence in the case of Parmar v Ford.
In the September 1999 hearing, the Stratford Employment Tribunal heard ethnic minority workers at Dagenham suffered racial abuse, racial violence from superiors and direct and indirect racial discrimination in internal selection procedures.
By Richard Staines