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Ford offers $100,000 buyouts

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Variance    0

Ford offers $100,000 buyouts

Some factory workers could get payouts in exchange for giving up all benefits except pensions.

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. is preparing an array of severance packages -- including a $100,000 one-time payout -- for workers whose plants are slated to close as part of the automaker's massive new restructuring plan, according to company officials.

Workers from Wixom to St. Louis to Atlanta have been anxiously awaiting details of the incentive packages since Ford announced last month it will close 14 plants and cut 30,000 hourly jobs over the next six years.

While the company expects to achieve half of the job cuts through attrition, the packages are needed to encourage the rest to leave the company voluntarily, said Marty Mulloy, Ford's vice president of labor affairs.

Ford will offer eligible workers these options:

A special $100,000 buyout offer for those who agree to leave the company and forgo all benefits except pension benefits they have accrued.

An Educational Opportunity Program to help workers move into a new career. The program provides workers with at least one year of seniority with up to $15,000 a year for tuition to an accredited school of their choice for up to four years. Those workers will receive full medical benefits and half their regular pay while they attend school.

Two early retirement programs. The first is for workers 55 and older who have 30 or more years with the company. They will receive a $35,000 check and begin retirement immediately, with full retirement benefits. The other program is for workers 50 and older with 10 or more years at the company. They will be provided a fixed level of income for life, though not as much as they would receive through the regular retirement program. The amount will vary from individual to individual, Mulloy said.

Finally, a special pre-retirement leave program for workers with 28 years of service but not yet 30 years. Ford will allow those workers to take a leave -- where they will receive 85 percent of their pay -- until they reach 30 years of service.

Ford has announced plans to idle assembly plants in Wixom, Atlanta and St. Louis, along with a transmission factory in Batavia, Ohio, and a casting plant in Windsor. Ford says it will add two more assembly plants to that list by the end of the year.

"As difficult as these plant actions are, we want to try to minimize the impact on employees in so far as we can," Mulloy said.

The company is already meeting with the UAW to discuss the severance programs, but they will have to be approved by each of the affected locals, he said. All four programs will be available to workers at each of the idled plants if they are approved by the union, Mulloy said.

Ford has already been contacted by a number of schools that are interested in the educational program, and the company is planning to allow some to set up information booths at the plants slated for closure. The company expects this to be an attractive option for younger workers. "A lot of them are using it to start their own businesses," Mulloy said.

Employees make plans

Ford already offers the packages to its workers, now in jobs banks, from the idled Edison, N.J., and Loraine, Ohio, plants. The company expects to start offering the severance programs soon to workers at the St. Louis factory, which is scheduled to shut down by the end of March.

"We have to have a formal agreement in St. Louis," Mulloy said. "We're very close."

St. Louis worker Brant McNeal is not waiting to find out the details.

The McNeal, 40, started working at the Ford plant in 1990. He is not eligible for any of the retirement packages and says that -- after taxes -- the $100,000 would leave him with a lot less than he would earn in another year on the Ford payroll.

"$100,000 isn't enough. I was amazed at how many people say they might take it," McNeal said. "I've still got a contract. I'm going to let them honor it."

Ford's labor agreement with the UAW states that Ford cannot permanently lay off workers without pay. While those assigned to idled factories may be eligible for unemployment, Ford must make up most of the difference between what that pays and their regular wages.

In addition, the company must continue to pay for the spectrum of benefits UAW members enjoy.

Once unemployment insurance runs out, workers are assigned to Ford's jobs bank, where they continue to draw full wages and benefits -- at least until the current contract expires in 2007.

In the meantime, McNeal is hard at work fixing up the duplex he lives in so that he can rent it out, along with a home he owns next door. When he is finished with his remodeling work, McNeal plans to borrow against these properties and buy more. He thinks he can make a living as a landlord.

"I'm optimistic, but I'm also doing something about it," he said.

Wixom workers in shock

Jack Dobbyn is doing something about it, too. Like other Ford workers, the Wixom worker is putting his house up for sale.

A week before Ford announced the details of its North American restructuring plan, Dobbyn's wife found a lump in her breast. Already worried about the fate of his plant, he turned to God with a simple prayer: "Take my job, not my wife."

Dobbyn's wife turned out to be fine, but his plant is slated to close next year. So, Dobbyn is putting his house on the market. If he can sell it, Dobbyn figures he can get rid of his mortgage and buy a more modest home outright with the profit. The only problem is that a lot of other Ford workers in his Livonia neighborhood seem to have the same idea.

"It's going to eliminate a house payment. That's going to make it a lot easier to live," Dobbyn said, adding that it might let him consider the tuition option.

"That's an exceptional idea. (But) I don't think I could survive on half my income," said the 48-year-old. Dobbyn would like to do something with computers, but anything that does not involve cars looks pretty good to him right now. "I want to start doing something and get out of this industry."

Wixom is not slated to shutdown until the second quarter of 2007, so workers like Dobbyn will have to wait a little longer for their severance options. Until then, he will stay in Wixom's jobs bank, since his services are no longer needed on the assembly line.

"I would like to go out right now and get a job, for the security, but I'm making good money and get good benefits," Dobbyn said. "I've got two daughters in college. I can't sacrifice their education, that's for sure. I want them to have more than I've got. I want them to be out of the auto industry."

Link: http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artic.../602070418/1148

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focusdchaos    0

Ford offers $100,000 buyouts

An Educational Opportunity Program to help workers move into a new career. The program provides workers with at least one year of seniority with up to $15,000 a year for tuition to an accredited school of their choice for up to four years. Those workers will receive full medical benefits and half their regular pay while they attend school.

Wow, that is a hell of a deal. Way better than the 100K buyout.

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caddycruiser    50

I'd say that's more than far, especially considering how people in most other lines of work just get a "Sorry, see yah" as they get eliminated.

Autoworkers do a hard job, I admit, but I've always been amazed at the pay and benefits they get...even when they're sitting on their keisters at home for months (or even years...) on end. You know, in the times that anyone else would naturally go out and try getting another job.

Unions DID serve a purpose at one time, but then it got ridiculous.....regardless, it's nice to see a company like Ford ready and willing to offer their employees such nice options in a bad situation.

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focusdchaos    0

I'd say that's more than far, especially considering how people in most other lines of work just get a "Sorry, see yah" as they get eliminated.

Autoworkers do a hard job, I admit, but I've always been amazed at the pay and benefits they get...even when they're sitting on their keisters at home for months (or even years...) on end.  You know, in the times that anyone else would naturally go out and try getting another job.

Unions DID serve a purpose at one time, but then it got ridiculous.....regardless, it's nice to see a company like Ford ready and willing to offer their employees such nice options in a bad situation.

Couldn't have said it better +1

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