US:More buyouts on way for Ford Woodhaven factory
More buyouts on way for Ford plant
At Woodhaven factory, strategy is to be competitive
BY SARAH A. WEBSTER
DETROIT FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
More job buyouts will be offered to the more than 1,500 workers at Ford Motor Co.'s Woodhaven Stamping Plant, which makes doors, fenders and other parts, after the workers ratified a new agreement at the plant that aims to make it more competitive.
More than 325 buyouts will be phased in through 2007, according to one worker at the plant who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution by union leaders. The new deal, which Ford is calling a "competitive operating agreement," was ratified Friday by more than 80% of the members of UAW Local 387.
"In a letter to the membership, we were strongly urged to vote yes," the union member said in an e-mail to the Free Press. "My local leaders understand that we must change or die."
The 325 buyouts at Woodhaven come as rumors swirl about a more sweeping buyout plan at the Dearborn-based automaker. As Ford retools its Way Forward restructuring plan, the company is looking at such action to prune its workforce. Ford is also negotiating more competitive operating agreements with plants as a way to solve its problems.
Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans would not divulge many details of the Woodhaven agreement late Tuesday. She said it includes items such as changes in work rules that will help make the plant be more competitive, and she did verify one aspect:
"I can confirm that there will be additional buyouts."
News of the deal was revealed after UAW leaders for Ford plants in the United States gathered in downtown Detroit on Tuesday afternoon.
During a four-hour meeting at the UAW-Ford National Programs Center, union leaders heard from UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Bob King, the union's newly named vice president for negotiating with Ford, and discussed what might be done to help the ailing automaker. The Dearborn-based Ford is updating its Way Forward restructuring plan, which already called for cutting 34,000 jobs and closing 14 plants, after posting a $1.4-billion half-year loss.
Many of the options Ford is considering could affect hourly workers represented by the UAW.
Ford is weighing a plan that could slash as much as 25% of its 140,000-strong workforce in North America, the Free Press previously reported. That includes about 82,000 workers represented by the UAW, and many workers have said they are hoping that they will be offered a job buyout of up to $100,000 or a tuition-assistance program.
The automaker is also considering other possible action, such as closing some plants sooner than expected and idling even more factories than previously expected.
Ford workers, as well as Ford investors, have been eager to see the automaker offer job buyouts to workers at all of its plants, as crosstown rival General Motors Corp. did in its accelerated attrition program earlier this year. About 35,000 workers agreed to leave GM.
In contrast, Ford has been offering buyouts on a selective basis at plants, most of which are slated to close. Consequently, just 7% of Ford's U.S. hourly workforce -- about 5,600 Ford-UAW members -- have agreed to leave, according to Ford's most recent figures. That includes about 150 workers at Woodhaven, where buyouts were briefly offered this year.
In a conversation with the Free Press outside the meeting hall, Gettelfinger would not discuss the issue of buyouts or the topic of the meeting.
The UAW later issued a statement that said: "Local union leaders met today to discuss the ideas and input of UAW-Ford workers about the current situation at Ford. We're focused on our continued efforts to deliver top-quality vehicles to consumers, because UAW members know that the surest route to job security is a strong recovery for Ford in its core North American market."
Heading into the meeting, several UAW members said they expected the issue of job buyouts to be discussed.
"I hope so," said Danny Sparks, chairman of UAW Local 882, which represents workers at the Ford plant in Hapeville, Ga., near Atlanta. That plant is already slated to close later this year under Ford's restructuring plan.
This year, Ford has been offering five buyout programs to UAW workers:
• Under a special termination-of-employment program, workers who volunteer to leave the company and forgo all benefits except pension benefits already accrued can receive a $100,000 buyout.
• Under an educational opportunity program previously disclosed in the Free Press, workers with one year of service are eligible to receive up to $15,000 in college tuition for up to four years. Workers who take part in this program can receive medical benefits and half of their regular pay while enrolled in school.
• Workers 55 and older who have 30 or more years of service are eligible to receive a $35,000 check and begin retirement immediately with full benefits.
• Workers 55 and older with 10 or more years of service will be provided a fixed level of income for life, which varies according to each employee's service with the company.
• Workers with at least 28 years of service are eligible to take a leave for two years until they reach 30 years of service, when they can retire as usual. During their leave, the workers will receive 85% of their pay.
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.....