Ford To Cut 4,200 Blue-Collar Employees, Report

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DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. has said that it wants to cut its blue-collar work force by another 4,200 employees, according to a person briefed on a presentation to union officials.

The struggling automaker is offering buyout and early retirement packages at manufacturing operations in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Indiana as it continues efforts to trim its factory ranks to match lower demand for its products.

Ford has declined to publicly state a target number, but Joe Hinrichs, group vice president of global manufacturing, told union officials the company has 4,200 more blue collar workers than it needs, according to the person briefed on the presentation.

The meeting with top local officials of the United Auto Workers union took place Tuesday and Wednesday, said the person, who did not want to be identified because the meeting was private. The number was reported late Wednesday by the Detroit Free Press.

Ford has set up an informational Web site, job fairs and retirement workshops in an effort to persuade workers to take buyouts or retire early. Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari would not say if the company would resort to involuntary layoffs if too few workers take this round of buyout offers.

In a video on the Web site, Hinrichs and UAW Ford Division Vice President Bob King encourage people to take the offers.

"We are expecting things to stay very difficult for the next few years," Hinrichs says on the video, in which he talks about the declining U.S. auto market, the shift from Ford's historic strengths of trucks and sport utility vehicles to small cars, and its market share decline.

"The result is more people than jobs," he said.

King says on the video that the union worked with the company to get the offers.

"I urge you to carefully consider these programs and your individual situation to decide what is best for you and your family," he said. "It is our deep hope that enough people will take advantage of these programs to best match the number of available jobs to our members."

In April, only 4,200 hourly workers accepted early retirement or buyout packages. At the time, Ford wouldn't say how many workers it wanted to leave, but a person with knowledge of the company's goals told The Associated Press earlier this year that the company was hoping for a minimum of 8,000 workers. The person didn't want to be identified because the target number wasn't officially released.

When the number fell short of Ford's goal, the company offered more packages to workers at selected factories.

Ford has lost $23.9 billion in the past 2 1/2 years and has had to mortgage its assets to stay in business as the U.S. auto market has shifted away from profitable trucks and sport utility vehicles to more fuel-efficient models. Its market share has dropped from about 26 percent in the early 1990s to 12.4 percent in August.

Ford now has about 45,000 UAW-represented workers in the U.S., and 54,000 factory workers in North America. It has slashed its blue-collar work force by nearly 38,000 since 2006, mainly with early retirement and buyout offers.

Earlier this year, Ford wrapped up a round of salaried job cuts, saying it was successful in reducing white-collar costs by 15 percent in North America. The cuts included an unspecified number of involuntary layoffs.

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On the Net:

Ford Motor Co.: http://www.ford.com

Buyout and early retirement site: http://www.yourjobconnection.org