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Old 12-06-2004, 05:38   #1 (permalink)
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US:Ford extends furloughs at St. Paul plant

Ford extends furloughs at St. Paul plant

Associated Press

ST. PAUL - Furloughs for workers at the St. Paul Ford plant are being extended as the automaker cuts production to cope with slower sales.

Ford Motor Co. said Friday it will close the plant for the weeks of Dec. 13 and Dec. 20 to bring the total weeks of furlough to six since Oct. 1. The temporary closure affects about 1,600 workers at the plant, which produces the Ford Ranger compact pickup and the Mazda B-Series pickup.

While Ford occasionally has closed the plant for a week or so over the years, this is the most significant shutdown since about 1992, said Rob McKenzie, president of the United Auto Workers Local 879.

The extended closure was a surprise, McKenzie said.

The move came two days after Ford announced disappointing November sales figures and said it was cutting vehicle production an additional 8 percent next quarter. So far, Ford's new first-quarter production schedule for 2005 doesn't include more furloughs in St. Paul.

Sales of the Ranger, which have been declining for some time, fell 25 percent in November. The temporary shutdowns in St. Paul have heightened concerns that falling Ranger sales could spell the plant's demise after 2007, when existing labor contracts expire. Ford hasn't threatened to close the facility but hasn't said what it will do with the plant after 2007 either.
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