The cuts represent 20 percent 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 the region.
Plants to be idled through 2008 include the St. Louis, Atlanta and Michigan's Wixom assembly plants and Batavia Transmission in Ohio. Windsor Casting in Ontario also will be idled, as was previously announced following contract negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers. Another two assembly plants to be idled will be determined later this year, and production at St. Thomas Assembly in Ontario will be reduced to one shift.
Why all this talk about idling plants instead of closing them? Because UAW contracts stipulate that Ford must negotiate closures with the union and the workers will have to continue to be paid until the contract expires in 2007.
Talk about the massive re-organization at Ford will invariably look at Ford’s inability to compete through poor management decisions, poor car design and general lack of business acumen – which is all very true. However, insanely generous contracts with non-skilled labor is certainly a significant variable that will be all but completely absent from the discourse – I mean what sane manager would agree to pay laid off workers nearly full wages for almost TWO YEARS in the advent of a company downsizing?
One can only hope that union leadership will start to see that they have succeeded in putting themselves out of business, but I’m not holding my breath.