Ford workers suspended over Net surfing

Investigation into unauthorised surfing at Ford plant

Three workers have been suspended from Ford's biggest UK factory for "unauthorised use" of the Internet.

However, Ford said Wednesday that, contrary to some reports, it does not believe the workers were viewing or downloading pornographic material. Management at Ford's Dagenham plant have launched an investigation. "Until our investigation is complete, we cannot provide further details," a spokesman said. The investigation is expected to last for a number of weeks.

The case is the latest in a growing number involving Internet abuse at work. Last week UK insurance company Royal & Sun Alliance sacked ten workers and suspended around seventy for forwarding inappropriate content including pornographic material via email. In November, Cable & Wireless dismissed six of its staff for email misuse.

A spokeswoman for the Trade Union Congress says it is important for regulations to be clearly laid down for employees. "This is a growing phenomenon," she says. "More and more people are becoming unstuck." Employers can be held legally liable for the content of emails sent across their systems and material downloaded from the Internet. Company directors could face legal action if the material coming from their offices is seen by someone who finds it seriously offensive.

The TUC spokeswoman also said that employers should develop codes of practice in cooperation with employees and even trade unions. "This is to draw together broad principles. Every new starter should have it drawn to their attention. That's where unions come in."

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