Ford to cut 25,000 to 30,000 jobs

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Ford Motor Co. plans to cut up to 30,000 jobs and shutter 14 plants in a sweeping restructuring of its North American auto business.

The cuts represent up to 25 percent of Ford’s North American work force of 122,000 people. Ford has approximately 87,000 hourly workers and 35,000 salaried workers. In addition, Ford plans to cut 12 percent of its corporate officers in the next two months.

Ford’s St. Louis plant will be the first plant idled, in the first quarter of this year. A plant near Atlanta will close at the end of this year and a plant in Wixom, Mich., will close in the second quarter of 2007, according to Ford Americas President Mark Fields.

Other plants to be idled and eventually closed through 2008 are Batavia Transmission in Ohio and Windsor Casting in Ontario. Ford will choose later this year two more plants to be idled. The company also will reduce production to one shift at its St. Thomas assembly plant in Ontario. All of the plant closings and job cuts are scheduled to be completed by 2012.

Under the company’s existing contract with the United Auto Workers, workers at the idled plants will continue to get most of their pay and benefits until a new contract is negotiated next year.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Vice President Gerald Bantom expressed disappointment over the plan.

“The impacted hourly and salaried workers find themselves facing uncertain futures because of senior management’s failure to halt Ford’s sliding market share,” they said in a statement. “The announcement has further left a cloud hanging over the entire work force because of pending future announcements of additional facilities to be closed at some point in the future.”

Fields said half the jobs Ford is cutting will be through attrition, while the rest will be through layoffs. He said the company plans to help workers using buyouts and possible placement in other plants.

In Wixom, 18-year veteran James Crawford said he is too young to retire and might not have enough seniority to get hired at another plant.

“This really hits me hard,” said the 39-year-old car painter, who listened to the announcement on the radio in a white Ford Probe parked across the street from the plant. “It looks like I’m starting over.”

The restructuring is Ford’s second in four years. Under the first plan, Ford closed five plants and cut 35,000 jobs.