December 19, 2014

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Union proposes layoff alternatives to Ford leadership

Union officials have proposed a number of alternatives to blunt planned layoffs in August at Ford’s Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Union officials have proposed a number of alternatives to blunt planned layoffs in August at Ford’s Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Local United Auto Workers officials are working with Ford Motor Co. to lessen the impact of layoffs at the Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, which will affect about 900 employees.

The union has remained tight-lipped about its negotiations with the company, but a letter from Ohio Assembly Plant Manager Jeff Carrier to UAW Chairman Tim Rowe said plant and senior company leadership are evaluating various options proposed by the union.

Among the options considered, Ford is looking at using temporary layoffs and a rotation of shifts, instead of the indefinite layoffs that were announced Jan. 13, according to the letter, a copy of which was acquired by The Chronicle-Telegram. Ford is also considering a redistribution of manpower and may offer retirement packages to the affected workforce, the letter suggests.

Union officials have not returned repeated calls for comment. In his letter to the union membership, Rowe urges members not to talk to the media about the situation. He said discussing the issue “complicates matters and impedes the progress among parties that have a true impact on the final outcome.”

Mary Springowski, a UAW team leader at the plant, previously has told The Chronicle that employees were blindsided by the layoffs, which weren’t mentioned during a rank-and-file meeting the day before they were announced.

Local government officials said they have heard only speculation about the future of the plant and were waiting to hear from Ford officials this week.

Michael Donovan, a UAW bargaining representative, wrote to employees that he asked Rowe to set up a town hall meeting with union membership to address concerns but that request was denied.

Donovan was unable to be reached Thursday, and Rowe did not return a call for comment.

The layoffs, which are scheduled to occur in August, will affect workers with 22 or fewer years of experience. They will occur during a retooling of the plant for the launch of the F-650 and F-750, scheduled for the second quarter of 2015.

Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka said the city stands to lose about $400,000 in income tax revenue this year due to the layoffs. The city is already feeling the squeeze from the devaluation of NRG Energy Plant, which is expected to create a loss of $158,000 in tax revenue this year.

“We’re hoping that things will stabilize and that they’ll negotiate with the union,” he said.

Because the plant straddles Sheffield and Sheffield Lake, those communities could see a loss as well.

Sheffield Mayor John Hunter said if the employees aren’t hired back, the village stands to lose $175,000 to $200,000 in income tax revenue from August, when the layoffs go into effect, to June 2015.

Hunter said he doesn’t expect any issues, however.

“I’ve got confidence in Ford and UAW that they’re going to do what’s best for the plant and those employees,” he said.

Donovan is also optimistic, according to his letter.

He wrote that several studies are being performed at the Ohio Assembly Plant to determine the feasibility of placing additional products at the location. He encouraged workers to maintain a positive attitude.

“I am confident that because of our amazing and dedicated workforce, at least one of these studies will become a reality,” he wrote. “Therefore, in my honest opinion, I believe that the long term future of the Ohio Assembly Plant is very bright.”

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.