Ford to offer buyouts to all hourly workers

Published September 14, 2006

DETROIT (AP) - Ford Motor Co. will offer buyout and early retirement plans to all of its hourly U.S. employees - more than 75,000 of them - as part of a broad restructuring plan aimed at cutting its costs in light of slumping sales.

Ford confirmed the plans yesterday after union officials disclosed the company would make the buyout offers of up to $140,000 each to workers.

The automaker had about 82,000 workers represented by the United Auto Workers at the end of last year, but about 6,500 have taken previous buyout and early retirement offers made mainly at plants slated for closure, company spokeswoman Marcey Evans said. The new offer would cover the remaining unionized workers.

The news came a day before the nation's second biggest automaker was to reveal details of a restructuring plan that likely will include massive job cuts and additional plant closures.

The buybacks are aimed at helping Ford cut costs as its sales shrink under fierce competition from more fuel-efficient models from Asian automakers.

The UAW announced the proposal in a statement to its members Thursday, saying that the offers are available to all active Ford workers represented by the union.

"Once again, our members are stepping up to make hard choices under difficult circumstances," UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in a statement. "Now, it's Ford Motor Co.'s responsibility to lead this company in a positive direction - which means using the skills, experience and dedication to quality that UAW members demonstrate every day in order to deliver quality vehicles to customers."

The buyouts are part of a larger restructuring plan approved by the Ford board of directors during a two-day meeting that ended Thursday. Ford said Thursday that it would announce details of the new plan tomorrow morning.

Ford shares fell 10 cents to close at $9.09 on the New York Stock Exchange. Its shares have traded in a 52-week range of $6.06 to $10.09.

Separately, Ford said that Anne Stevens, an architect of the restructuring effort at Ford and one of the auto industry's highest ranking women, is retiring. Stevens, 57, had been at the center of Ford's turnaround efforts since October 2005 when she was named executive vice president.