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U.S.A.:Ford eyes deep U.S. blue-collar job cuts

Automotive News

Reuters / August 01, 2003

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. hopes to eliminate about 21,000 jobs or 20 percent of its blue-collar work force over the life of a new collective bargaining agreement with the United Auto Workers union, sources familiar with the company's plans said this week.

When it unveiled a multiyear turnaround plan to recover from a deepening financial crisis in January last year, the world's second largest automaker said it planned to cut about 12,000 hourly jobs, nearly all represented by the UAW.

But sources close to the company said it was now looking at shrinking even further its blue-collar ranks, which include workers at its former auto parts subsidiary Visteon Corp. Ford hopes to cut roughly 5 percent a year over the duration of a four-year contract with the UAW.

The cuts would be achieved through attrition -- meaning that Ford would not replace workers as they quit or retire -- and the company's total blue-collar work force would be cut to about 73,000 employees from 94,000, the sources said.

Anne Marie Gattari, a Ford spokeswoman, declined to comment on the nature of any planned cutback, which could complicate the contract talks that Ford and other Detroit automakers opened with the UAW two weeks ago.

But Ford's plan would be bolstered by the fact that the company has a large number of factory workers who are at or near completing 30 years of service with the automaker, when they will be eligible for retirement.

At Ford's assembly plant in Lorain, Ohio, for example, almost one-third of the work force is eligible for retirement.

Though Ford's push to cut jobs through attrition could represent a major challenge for the UAW, which has been hurt by the loss of more than half its membership since 1979, it is not without precedent.

The union allowed General Motors to use attrition to scale back its work force repeatedly in contracts over the past decade, and more than 17,000 factory jobs were eliminated at GM alone under terms of the current UAW contract with little or no protest from the union's leadership.

The UAW negotiated one of the richest contracts in U.S. labor history in 1999, at a time when GM, Ford and the Chrysler arm of DaimlerChrysler were all coming off record profits.

But those profits have long since vanished, and many analysts and labor experts believe the UAW will endorse major cost-cutting efforts at Ford and its cross-town rivals as a trade-off for keeping generous health care and retirement benefits.

At Ford, in particular, company officials have said the UAW will have to lift a four-year ban on U.S. plant closings so it can proceed with its restructuring plan by eliminating excess production capacity.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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