US:Ford sued over lost benefits
Ford sued over lost benefits
Employees fight back against automaker and parts supplier Visteon over reduced pensions.
Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
Mark Ensley has been doing the same job at the same desk for the same boss for 10 years, so he was more than a little surprised to learn that he was being reclassified as a new hire.
That's what happened to the former Ford Motor Co. employee when his Visteon Corp. factory was transferred back to Ford in January.
"I was overwhelmed," said Ensley, who was hired by Ford in 1976.
"It's outright immoral and unethical."
Now, Ensley and six of his coworkers are suing both companies, claiming they violated their federal retirement benefit rights.
Their suit, which was filed in federal court in Detroit on Tuesday, asks the court to order the companies to reinstate their full pension benefits.
They are also seeking class status for their case, saying hundreds of other workers at Ford's part plants in Ypsilanti Township and Sterling Heights may have been similarly treated.
Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said the company had not yet seen the lawsuit and would not comment.
Visteon was spun off from Ford in 2000.
At the time, most of the salaried employees working in Ford's parts factories were transferred to the new company.
Ensley and others say they were told their compensation package and benefits would not be affected by the transfer.
They continued to receive the same salary, the same benefits and expected to receive the same pension when they retired. Part of that pension would be paid by Ford, part by Visteon.
"Without question, that was my understanding," Ensley said.
Attorney Michael Pitt, who is representing Ensley and the other plaintiffs, said he has written documentation to support this claim.
Pensions lost with transfer
Ensley continued to work for Visteon until January, when his plant was transferred back to Ford as part of a 2005 bail-out deal designed to save the foundering supplier.
Ensley became a Ford employee again, but he was told that he would no longer accrue pension benefits under his original plan.
While Ensley was at Visteon, Ford changed its salaried employee retirement program from a traditional, defined-benefit pension to a defined-contribution plan for new hires, and he was told that the rest of his time with the company would be counted under the new, less generous plan.
Moreover, Ensley discovered he would lose the supplemental retirement benefits he had been promised by Visteon.
Ensley, who is 50 and has logged 30 years with Ford and Visteon, would have been eligible to retire on March 1 with full supplemental benefits if he still worked for Visteon.
Ensley could still retire from Ford, but he would lose about $450 a month that he would have received before his latest transfer.
Pitt said that represents a total loss of $64,800, since the supplemental benefits would have been paid for 12 years.
In addition, any benefits he accrues from this point forward will be under Ford's new, less generous retirement program.
"He'll never get his full 30-year Ford pension," Pitt said, adding that Ensley's situation is "fairly typical" of salaried workers at the two plants.
Pitt will hold an informational meeting at 7 p.m. July 20 at the Novi Doubletree Inn for other Ford employees who think they may be in the same situation.
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.....