Ford’s buyout package has mixed results for workers

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As Ford prepares to shut down its St. Paul Ranger plant, workers are being offered a choice of eight possible buyout packages. Ford released more details of its “Way Forward” plan to drastically scale back U.S. operations Sept. 15, but the specifics yielded a mixed bag for workers at the Ranger assembly plant in St. Paul.

The company confirmed that it will offer all of its 75,000 unionized employees in the U.S., including members of United Auto Workers Local 879 in St. Paul, buyout packages. Employees will have six weeks, from Oct. 16 to Nov. 27, to consider eight packages Ford has put on the table.

According to Local 879 President Roger Terveen, the buyouts likely will appeal to St. Paul employees, about 93 percent of whom indicated in a nonbinding survey earlier this year that they would accept one of seven hypothetical packages.

Some of Ford’s eight buyout packages resemble those from the survey and some don’t, but Terveen said most Local 879 members seem ready to move on. Ford says it will close the Ranger plant in the second quarter of 2008, and the company confirmed this month that it will eliminate the St. Paul facility’s night shift during the first quarter of 2007. Meanwhile, Local 879 workers can expect more furloughs, tentatively scheduled for three weeks in October and two weeks in November.

“A lot of the members, the ones that are close to retirement, are ready to go,” Terveen said. “They think they will get a package and will take the extra money just to get out of here.”

Other buyout packages offer financial incentive for less-tenured employees to leave, primarily those with less than 10 years of experience. Terveen said the buyout packages are less attractive to workers in the middle – those with between 10 and 20 years of experience.

“A lot of these packages that we finally got are based on your years of service credit and your age, and the ones in between 10 and 20 years of service were basically given the shaft,” Terveen said. “They’re stuck between a rock and a hard spot.”

Those employees, Terveen added, likely will face a choice: take a less attractive buyout, or ride out the remaining months the St. Paul plant will be operational.

“If you do not sign up for a package, you’re gambling on the plant staying open until the second quarter of 2008 and on getting a transfer package to another plant,” Terveen said. “Ford talks about transfers, but they don’t talk about how many.

“There are a lot of members that aren’t very happy with these packages, but I know the international did the best they could working with Ford Motor Company and the dilemma they’re in right now.”