SOME Ford workers could be looking at a £100,000 pay day when they walk out of Southampton’s Transit plant for the last time in May.

Voluntary redundancy packages have been boosted after unions won their battle to get an inflation-busting 5.25 per cent pay rise, which will be backdated almost six months.

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The increase is a huge hike in the current climate when retail prices index inflation has fallen to 0.1 per cent.

Some of the 500 Ford staff expected to leave could walk away with more than £50,000 with the prospect of withdrawing the same again from their pensions.

from their pensions.

Last month Ford revealed it would be halving its 1,100-strong workforce at Swaythling and declared a pay freeze.

Now John Fleming, Ford of Europe chairman, has done a U-turn and agreed to pay the first of a three-year deal negotiated with unions. However, he has refused to guarantee above inflation pay rises over the next two years.

In a confidential memo leaked to the Daily Echo Mr Fleming yesterday described the “fragility of the current situation” to workers.

He said: “I am honouring the year one general increase offered by the company in October as part of the 2008 negotiations.

“In light of the serious situation we face and the revised forecast for inflation, I believe it would be appropriate to review the year two and year three pay increases.

“I will close by again emphasising the critical business situation we face. In the circumstances, our priority must be to take the necessary steps, however difficult they may be, to protect both the business and employees.”

Last week the Daily Echo revealed that Ford bosses had been swamped by workers who wanted voluntary redundancy.

The factory will be shutting down for three weeks between May 5 and May 26 and output will be cut until the end of the year.

Those hoping to leave with a hefty payoff will be having one-to-ones with the human resource team starting today and be finished by mid-April after which time the final decision on who will be going will have been made.

The latest revelations come as new figures show commercial vehicle production plummeted to 71.6 per cent, between this February and the same time last year. The statistics are the worst of their kind since the 1970s.

The first sign there might be question marks over the future of the Swaythling came in July last year when the Daily Echo exclusively published a leaked memo which revealed the plant was under review. The company later admitted it was going to slash output from 75,000 vehicles a year to just 35,000 chassis cabs, cut staff and export production of the iconic Transit to Turkey.

However, these plans have been put on hold due the economic downturn.