US:Deadline nears for Ford buyout plans
UAW DECISION TIME: Deadline nears for Ford buyout plans
Opportunity ends after Monday
BY KATIE MERX
DETROIT FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
Final day of fair
Today is the last day of an opportunity fair aimed at helping Ford Motor Co. union workers decide whether to take one of eight buyout packages.
The event is set for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at UAW Local 600, 10550 Dix Ave. in Dearborn.
The deadline to sign up for a buyout is midnight Monday. Paperwork should be turned in to your plant's labor relations office.
Ford's buyout packages to hourly workers include early retirement, tuition-reimbursement plans and flat-rate buyouts for employees with at least one year of service.
The clock is ticking for UAW workers at Ford Motor Co. to decide whether they will take one of the buyouts the automaker is offering as part of its plan to scale back and stop its losses.
If you're one of the workers eligible for a buyout and you haven't yet made up your mind -- or turned in your paperwork -- you have until midnight Monday to deliver your papers to your plant's labor relations office. After that, the window will close.
Dearborn-based Ford lost $7 billion in the three quarters of the year and plans to eliminate 30,000 hourly and 14,000 salaried jobs by 2008. The effort will reduce by one-third the company's North American workforce and is part of its plan to show a profit by 2009.
The company hopes that enough workers will choose to leave that it can avoid layoffs.
Ford's 75,000 U.S. factory workers can choose from eight buyout packages.
Ford wouldn't say how many employees have signed up to leave the company, though CEO Alan Mulally said in a Free Press interview Nov. 10 that buyouts were a bit ahead of schedule.
Workers who attended an opportunity fair at the UAW Local 600 union hall Tuesday said they heard that about 15,000 workers had signed up so far.
"I heard they've got about half the people," said Doniesha Green, 27, of Romulus, who attended the opportunity fair but has decided to keep working at Ford. "I think they'll have a lot of people sign up at the last minute. That's what happened at GM."
General Motors Corp. offered buyouts to hourly workers earlier this year as part of its restructuring plan and exceeded its expected rate, with 34,000 employees volunteering to leave.
Ford hasn't publicly stated how many workers it hopes will take buyouts or whether there is a maximum.
The automaker also would not estimate the cost of the program.
Workers at the fair said it was hard to know how it would shake out. Several said they hadn't made up their minds and were at the fair to see what opportunities were available to them.
Colleges, employers, health plans, franchisers and investment companies were at the union hall to provide information to workers. They'll be at the hall at 10550 Dix Ave. in Dearborn again from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. today.
"It's really unclear what people are going to do," said Victor Thomas, 54, who plans to keep working for Ford as a building engineer. "It's created a lot of anxiety."
But for some people the buyout opportunity couldn't have been timed any better.
Greg Derstepanian, 36, of Canton, a 17-year Ford veteran, said his lease is up in December and he's headed out West to run a welding company and continue his passion of fixing up and selling muscle cars. Derstepanian will get $100,000 and six months of health insurance when he leaves.
And Michael Selders, 56, of Taylor said: "The timing was perfect."
Selders will use a $35,000 buyout to pay off his house and will retire with full benefits and pension.
He said he's not going to work the first year, but he was at the fair to see what might be out there after that.
"I hope this helps them do well," Selders said. His continuing health benefits and pension depend on it.
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.....