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US:Ford retirees join against benefit cuts

Ford retirees join against benefit cuts
GM's also make appeal to UAW


Ford Motor Co. retirees have joined retired General Motors Corp. workers in asking the UAW to reconsider health-care benefit cuts that were approved last year without their vote.

The retired workers, from Michigan and Ohio, started a formal UAW appeals process with letters sent this week, said labor lawyer Ellis Boal of Charlevoix, who represents three retirees from Ford and nine from GM. He said in an interview Thursday that retirees want a chance to vote on the plans, which were approved by active Ford and GM workers.

Ford CEO Bill Ford and GM CEO Rick Wagoner, who reported $6.3 billion in combined losses at their North American auto operations in the first nine months of last year, are both trying to trim union health-care costs while closing plants and firing active workers.

UAW spokesman Paul Krell couldn't be reached to comment on the request. U.S. Judge District Robert Cleland ruled Dec. 22 that the UAW and GM had done a reasonable job of protecting retirees' interests. Active workers at GM approved the proposal Nov. 11, and 51% of Ford workers approved the cuts Dec. 22.

Leroy McKnight, a retired worker from a Lansing GM stamping plant, has filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit asking that the UAW not be allowed to negotiate on his behalf to reduce his health benefits. Under the plan, individual retirees who currently pay no premium would pay a maximum of $370 per year.

Wagoner is counting on health-care concessions, job cuts and plant closings to reduce GM's North American expenses $7 billion annually by the end of next year. GM also plans to close nine assembly plants and eliminate 30,000 union jobs by 2008.

U.S. workers are increasingly showing dissatisfaction with agreements their unions are reaching with management.

The UAW and Ford agreed to a health-care plan similar to GM's on Dec. 10. The agreement cuts Ford's health-care costs by $850 million a year. Ford had a $1.2-billion North American pretax loss in the third quarter.

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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