About 300 UAW workers took latest Ford buyout

About 300 UAW workers took latest Ford buyout

Fri, Jan 29 2010

By David Bailey

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (Reuters) – About 300 United Auto Workers union members accepted Ford Motor Co’s latest round of buyout offers that ended last week, the automaker’s president of the Americas said on Friday.

Ford, which posted its first full-year profit in four years in 2009, may soon be able to begin hiring workers at a second-tier wage, but first will offer any open positions to laid off workers, President of the Americas Mark Fields said.

"We first are going to offer jobs to folks who are indefinitely laid off and it may lead to us hiring new people into the organization, but it’s still too early in the process," Fields told reporters on the sidelines of the West Michigan Automotive Summit.

Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said the 300 buyouts were within the automaker’s expectations and would help reduce the roughly 600 workers on indefinite layoff. Because of efficiencies, the reduction won’t be a full 300, she said.

Earlier in January, Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally had said that the automaker hoped to get more than several hundred UAW workers to accept buyouts in the latest offer.

Local union officials had said they expected few workers to take buyouts given the still fragile U.S. economic recovery.

The automaker has about 41,000 UAW workers and last year a buyout offer to the full group netted about 1,000 takers. Fields would not rule out the automaker making another offer.

"Part of our strategy is to always make sure we are looking at our cost structure and matching the demand that we have and we are going to have an endless focus on making sure that our structural costs are in line with our programs," Fields said.

Earlier this week, Ford said it would hire 1,200 workers to add production at its Chicago assembly and stamping plants to produce a new version of the Explorer SUV later in 2009.

Ford and the UAW leadership are at odds over benefits reinstated for white collar workers, a point for which the union has filed a grievance. Ford awarded profit-sharing to the UAW for the first time since 2004 because of the profit.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Richard Chang)

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