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United States:Job satisfaction at Ford falls a bit

By Mark Truby / The Detroit News

DEARBORN -- When Bill Ford Jr. took control of Ford Motor Co. in late 2001, employees celebrated and morale appeared to rebound after the rocky tenure of former CEO Jacques Nasser.

But Ford's own surveys show that the satisfaction of Ford's white-collar employees has not improved and may even be headed in the wrong direction.

The automaker's annual "pulse survey" reveals that job satisfaction among Ford workers fell slightly in 2002, according to statistics included in Ford's 2002 Corporate Citizenship Report.

Ford employees, however, aren't alone in the industry as conditions worsen for automakers and their suppliers.

In 2000 and 2001, 64 percent of Ford workers said they were satisfied with their jobs. In 2002, the number fell to 61 percent, according to the report released last week.

After dismissing Jacques Nasser and taking over as chairman and CEO in October 2001, Bill Ford acknowledged the company's relations with employees were fractured and needed to be repaired.

The hard-charging Nasser alienated many employees by instituting a harsh employee ranking system designed to sweep out underperformers.

While many workers were elated by the leadership change, the shift does not appear to have boosted morale at the struggling automaker.

The drop in employee satisfaction is slight, but it indicates that Ford's 79,000-person white-collar workforce remains deeply concerned about the company and its future.

Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari said the decline wasn't statistically significant and pointed out that Ford's management has made several cost-cutting decisions that had an adverse impact on employees.

In January 2002, Ford announced it was cutting 21,000 jobs and closing five North American plants. Ford has also increased the health care costs of white collar workers, eliminated matching contributions to 401k funds and delayed merit raises.

"The fact that it only dipped three points, I would consider that a positive," Gattari said. "We had to take some tough actions."

Last week, Ford announced plans to cut its salaried personnel expenses by 10 percent, which is likely to mean up to 2,000 white-collar workers will be laid off.

Ford surveys its white-collar employees every fall on a variety of issues.

In 2002, 48 percent of employees were satisfied with their job stress levels, up from 44 percent in 2001.

The percentage of workers pleased with the reward and recognition they receive from the company, however, dropped to 53 percent from 55 percent.

"It's a way to stay in touch with employees on all sorts of issues," Gattari said. "Human resources uses the information to ensure that we are providing the types of programs and policies that employees need and value."

Because of the auto industry's recent woes -- sales and profits are down at all three Detroit automakers, as well as major suppliers -- employees are likely to feel less optimistic or satisfied about their prospects.

In response to weaker economic climate, companies have reduced benefits, frozen salaries and reduced bonuses.

In an annual survey of employee sentiment, Troy-based automotive supplier Delphi Corp. said 39 percent of workers chose "cautious" among six words offered to describe how they feel about the company and their jobs.

About 5,500 of Delphi's 60,000 employees responded to the survey in February and March, according to Kari Gaffé, a Delphi spokeswoman.

In last year's study, 40 percent said they were cautious. The other words offered were: insecure, proud, safe, pleased and angry.

"Cautious is a pretty realistic word to use," Gaffé said. "We don't see that as any sort of problem given the economy and problems the auto industry faces."

About 18 percent of Delphi employees said they were pleased with conditions and 19 percent chose insecure to describe their feelings.

The results of the survey are shared with corporate leaders at all levels, and then "action plans" are developed to help correct any problems, Gaffé said.

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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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