Ford adds overtime at Michigan F-150 plant as Missouri strike deadline nears

The UAW disputed Ford's ability to schedule mandatory overtime in Dearborn but determined it was allowed because Ford is within two weeks of a model-year changeover for the F-150 at the plant. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Ford Motor Co. has canceled a planned overtime shift this weekend at its F-150 plant in Missouri, where workers threaten to strike as soon as Sunday, and is diverting frames for the pickups to its other F-150 plant in Michigan to minimize the consequences of a work stoppage.

Ford has added mandatory overtime shifts at the Michigan plant on Saturday, Oct. 3, and Sunday, Oct. 11, according to a memo from the plant’s chairman at UAW Local 600 in Dearborn, Mich.

The UAW has set a strike deadline of 1 p.m. EDT Sunday at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo., where more than 7,000 workers represented by Local 249 build the F-150 and Transit van. The union says Ford has failed to negotiate “in good faith” on plant-specific issues including safety and scheduling.

Ford executives say they are confident the matter can be resolved without any disruptions affecting the F-150. The F series is the automaker’s top-selling nameplate and biggest source of profits. Ford executives have declined to discuss any contingency plans being implemented.

A strike would add to the problems Ford has had building enough F-150s since the pickup’s redesign last year. A lengthy changeover at the two F-150 plants caused sales to fall as inventories dwindled, and production problems at a supplier’s plant in Kentucky further slowed output of the aluminum-bodied pickups.

Ford tapped a second supplier, Tower International, to begin shipping additional F-150 frames from Ohio starting this month, but until that happens both F-150 plants remain short on frames, according to a Facebook post today by Local 249’s chairman, Todd Hillyard.

“Given the situation at [Kansas City Assembly] production was sent to keep [Dearborn Truck Plant] running, and it is within the company’s right to do so,” Hillyard wrote. “We will return to the table and the morning and do everything we can to reach a fair agreement for our members on the remaining open items regarding safety and seniority.”

In light of the strike threat at Kansas City, the UAW disputed Ford’s ability to schedule mandatory overtime in Dearborn but determined it was allowed because Ford is within two weeks of a model-year changeover at the plant, according to the memo from Local 600 chairman Nick Kottalis. Ford plans to start building the 2016 version of the F-150 on Oct. 12.

In August, Dearborn Truck built 1,718 F-150s per day, while Kansas City built 1,467 F-150s and 593 Transits per day, according to the Automotive News Data Center. The Kansas City plant accounts for 19 percent of Ford’s total U.S. production.

Ford ended September with about 100,000 F-150s in inventory, which is below the 120,000 that it considers “a more normative planning level,” Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service, said Thursday. Ford had previously said F-150 inventories would return to normal by the end of September. U.S. F-series sales, after slipping 0.5 percent this year through August, rose 16 percent in September, slowing the company’s ability to build up stocks.

The strike deadline is not directly related to negotiations between Ford and the UAW on a national contract covering more than 52,000 workers. Those talks have been paused since mid-September, when the union focused on reaching a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles first.

The UAW said Thursday that FCA workers soundly rejected their proposed contract, but it is unclear whether the union will return to the bargaining table with that company or shift to Ford or General Motors.

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