Ford kicks off worker buyout programs

Ford Motor Co. has begun in earnest its efforts to coax as many as 30,000 hourly workers to retire early or take a buyout by 2008.

The automaker is shedding workers and closing plants as part of its accelerated Way Forward restructuring plan, aimed at saving $5 billion a year by 2008 from its U.S. operations.

Ford is offering a buyout or early retirement package to all 75,000 UAW-represented hourly employees in the United States, said Marty Mulloy, Ford vice president of labor affairs. Workers can sign up for a package beginning Monday, Oct. 16, until the program's scheduled expiration Nov. 27, he said.

Employees can choose among three traditional retirement and early-retirement incentive packages. Several other packages target younger workers. They offer as much as $140,000 to leave Ford and forego all benefits other than accrued pensions. Another plan provides tuition and as much as 70 percent pay for workers who leave to attend full-time a college, university or technical school.

Given the financial crisis at Ford, the automaker has moved up the 30,000-person departure target from 2012 to 2008. That figure includes normal attrition.

Mulloy said Ford worked with the UAW to create the packages for Ford hourly workers and those employees at former Visteon plants that Ford took back from Visteon and now operates as Automotive Components Holdings LLC.

Ford will hold a two-day educational workshop and job fair beginning Tuesday, Oct. 10, at its Norfolk, Va., assembly plant, Mulloy said.

On the first day, Ford will give details of the packages to workers and answer questions. The job fair on the second day will put workers in touch with prospective schools and employers, he said.

Norfolk is one of nine U.S. plants scheduled to close by 2008 to bring Ford's production capacity in line with sales demand. Norfolk is closing next year, a year earlier than originally announced.

Mulloy said Ford eventually will bring the educational forums to all of its plants.

You may e-mail David Barkholz at dbarkholz@crain.com

You can reach David Barkholz at dbarkholz@crain.com

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