AVON LAKE — Ford Motor Co. is willing to pay its most experienced workers a $70,000 lump sum to leave the company, and some area workers are seriously considering it, union leaders said.
The auto giant announced Thursday that it will offer eight different buyout packages to its 54,000 U.S. employees between Feb. 18 and March 17.
The offer is almost identical to the one taken by 32,800 employees in 2006. This time, though, the company is upping the ante from $35,000 to $70,000 for skilled workers, Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said.
Non-skilled laborers will have the option to take a $50,000 lump sum, she said.
“There are a lot of people out there who would be eager to take this buyout,” United Auto Workers Local President Tim Donovan said.
Two workers at the Avon Lake plant have already told Donovan they plan to take the cash, he said, and many others are talking it over with family.
“A lot of people have been waiting for this,” said Mary Springkowski, who works at the Avon Lake plant. “Ford’s upped the money this time, and people might take it because they’re so concerned about the economic conditions.”
Ford fell behind Toyota in 2007 to become the nation’s No. 3 auto maker. It was the first time in 75 years that Ford was outsold by any company but General Motors.
In 2006, Ford was $12.6 billion in the red, but on Thursday the company announced it had reduced its losses to $2.7 billion in 2007.
Evans said the goal is to be profitable again by 2009, and that’s where the buyouts come in.
Donovan said it’s solid business practice to replace high-paid workers with lower-paid ones, and that doing so will open jobs for out-of-work Ohioans.
“There are a lot of people without jobs right now, and this will help at least some of them get back into good-paying jobs,” he said. “If 300 people take the buyout, we’d get 300 people to replace them. We’re not going to be losing jobs.”
Evans said Ford doesn’t want to hire and train new workers. Instead, the company aims to bring back employees who were previously downsized and are waiting to go back to work.
The workers who take the buyout will start leaving April 1 and continue through the end of the year, she said.
Not everyone thinks cashing in is a good idea, though.
“I think it would be a mistake to take the buyout, especially with the economy the way it is and America going through a transition,” Ford employee Carlos
Clipper said. “A lot of people who took the deal the last time Ford offered are regretting it, he said, because they didn’t plan ahead financially.”
Avon Lake Mayor Karl Zuber said he thinks the buyouts will be good for the Avon Lake plant.
“Everything that I’m hearing suggests that Ford will be profitable again,” he said. “This is one way for them to achieve that goal. Ford’s been very good for Avon Lake and Lorain County. I’m pulling for them.”
Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.