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US:Ford has script for salaried buyouts

Ford has script for salaried buyouts

Staffers to be told one of six reasons why they're getting offers, which start going out Monday.

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Ford is offering three buyout packages:
Select retirement plan: Company adds three years to employee's age and length of service for pension calculations.
Salaried retirement window: Employees retire with regular pension benefits, plus a one-time payment equal to as much as 13 weeks of pay.
Voluntary salaried separation program: Younger workers receive up to 13 weeks of pay to leave the company and still receive any vested pension benefits when eligible.
Source: Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Co. will begin offering buyouts to the bulk of its white-collar work force Monday as part of the automaker's ongoing effort to cut its U.S. payroll and return its struggling North American automobile business to profitability.

In most departments, Ford is expected to offer buyouts to 85 percent of salaried employees. Ford said in September it plans to cut 10,000 of its 38,500 U.S. salaried positions by 2008. The company hopes to meet that goal through voluntary buyouts, but has said it will resort to involuntary layoffs if necessary.

The move comes on the heels of an unprecedented effort by Ford to convince hourly workers to take buyout or early retirement packages. Some 38,000 signed up for those offers, which were more generous than the packages for salaried employees.

Ford began offering early retirement packages to eligible salaried personnel in October and the first buyout offers went to senior managers later that month. Now, Ford is extending buyout packages to lower level managers and non-management workers.

"We're doing these in waves," said Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt. He confirmed the offers will start going out Monday. Employees will have until Jan. 5 to decide. Ford has been conducting training sessions with managers throughout the company to prepare them to meet with employees selected for buyout offers.

"These are difficult, tough communications to have with people," Hoyt said. "We want to be responsible here. We want to be sensitive."

As part of that training, Ford gave managers manuals that include detailed scripts for supervisors to read to employees when they are handed their buyout offers. Those familiar with the 69-page, spiral-bound document say it instructs managers to choose one of six reasons to explain why the employee is getting a buyout offer:

"You are part of a group that was selected for reductions based on business reasons."

"Your position may be eliminated or downgraded."

"Your skills are not in line with future business plans."

"You are unlikely to have your career ambitions met."

"You are presently on a protected grade and there is not a strong likelihood of being able to return to your prior level."

"You meet the service requirements and we have a salaried cost target to meet."

Some managers told The Detroit News they were also given unwritten instruction about how to present packages to employees they hope to keep.

Several salaried employees told The News that morale is low in their departments. People are on edge as they wait to find out whether they'll get an offer to leave, and anxious to hear how it will be pitched.

Charles Moore, managing director at turnaround specialist Conway, MacKenzie & Dunleavy in Birmingham, said Ford likely will have a harder time convincing salaried workers to take buyouts than it did factory workers because most of its white-collar jobs are in Michigan and there is little Ford can do to help them find other jobs.

"This is a tough job market," Moore said. "Ford has generally done a good job of creating opportunities for people as it pursues its downsizing. But when it comes to the salaried work force, they are in a more difficult position."

The company is not required to give buyouts to every worker who signs up. According to the manual, Ford has until Feb. 27 to decide whether it will accept an employee's decision to leave.

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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