TOKYO - More than 2,000 Mazda Motor Corp. employees signed up for a company early retirement package within hours of it being offered Feb. 19, while dozens of others were turned away, the company disclosed last week.
The race for the exits jolted managers and raised questions about morale at Mazda, where a large number of Japanese employees worry promotions will be based on how well they speak English with their Ford Motor Co. bosses.
The result has been an increase in uncertainty at the Ford affiliate, as staffers wonder who among the remaining workers will be reassigned to make up for staff imbalances.
Mazda had hoped to reduce its Japan work force by 1,800, or 9 percent of its worldwide total, by April 1 by offering an enticing early retirement package. Instead, 2,213 will leave, of whom almost 550 are in their 30s.
Even more - the company won't say how many - of the 10,000 workers eligible for the program sought to enroll but had to be turned away.
The sign-up period was supposed to last 15 days. Management put a cap on the outflow by limiting the package to those who signed up first.
In one reported case, just three minutes made the difference between a worker whose application for early retirement was accepted and one whose application was rejected.
'We believe that achieving the targeted number within the day is due to the sufficient notification period given to applicants, and the provision of enough time for them to make their decision,' Mazda President Mark Fields said.
'We understand the seriousness of each employee's decision, which include mixed emotions and various circumstances, in applying for the plan.'