SHEFFIELD — Approximately 900 workers at the Ohio Assembly Plant who were scheduled to be laid off in August will retain their jobs under a new agreement with United Auto Workers Local 2000 and Ford Motor Co.
The union held a press conference Monday to announce a compromise made with Ford to maintain 1,408 of its 1,605 employees at the plant.
Under the new agreement, the Ohio Assembly Plant will provide rotating shift opportunities for about 1,000 production employees. The rotation would be in two-week cycles — with half the plant crews working for two weeks and then being temporarily laid off for two weeks while the other half works.
The rotation would begin during retooling of the plant for a new product line — the production of F-650 and F-750 medium-sized trucks — beginning Aug. 4 and continuing until the product launch in the second quarter of 2015.
A Ford spokeswoman said rotating shifts would ensure that the majority of Ohio Assembly Plant workers will continue to receive 74 percent to 100 percent of their pay during the transitional period.
UAW Chairman Tim Rowe said the 197 “surplus employees” who will be affected by the layoffs would be protected by buy-out packages, temporary layoffs offered by inverse seniority and the opportunity to transfer to the Brook Park Ford plant by seniority.
A total of 1,886 people are employed at the Ohio Assembly Plant, but management was not factored into the layoffs. Skilled trade workers and the launch team for the new product line are part of the 1,408 employees who are protected due to existing work, training, retooling and launch-related activities, Rowe said.
Rowe said retirement packages also will be offered to those employees who are eligible, and employees at the Ohio Assembly Plant and Walton Stamping Plant, scheduled to close this year, were given the option to transfer to the Brook Park Ford plant.
“Our workforce should be protected in its entirety,” Rowe said.
UAW President Jerome Williams said he was satisfied that Ford agreed with the business plan presented by the union. He said the indefinite layoffs of 900 employees initially proposed by Ford could have had a negative effect on the workers, as well as the community.
“The union has been working very hard through discussions with Ford Motor Co. in an effort to maximize employment at Ohio Assembly Plant,” he said. “Layoffs not only affect our membership but also affect our supplier plants, and it affects the surrounding communities and also affects the state of Ohio.
“Our objective is to create and maintain a positive situation for our employees, as well as anyone who is associated with Ohio Assembly Plant.”
Sheffield Mayor John Hunter, who initially estimated a loss of $150,000 to $200,000 in tax revenue for the village due to the layoffs, said maintaining the majority of the workforce will allow the village to maintain a portion of the tax revenue.
Hunter said the union’s proposal also would maintain employee benefits.
“One of the things that is being overlooked with this, is that these temporary layoffs make the employees’ seniority continue to grow and allow them to have medical coverage, and they don’t lose that,” he said.
Rowe said he has a good relationship with Ford executives, and the business plan made sense to the company.
“If you can come up with a case that can save Ford Motor Co. money, they’re all on board with that, as any company would be,” he said.
Rowe said the future of the plant appears to be positive.
By maintaining 1,408 employees, the Ohio Assembly Plant will be in compliance with a $15 million, 15-year tax credit deal by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority that is contingent on maintaining at least 1,400 hourly workers.
Ford is investing $128 million into the Avon Lake facility to remake the plant for the production of the F-650 and F-750 trucks, as part of a national $16 billion investment including $6.3 billion to retool and upgrade plants by Ford. The investment was agreed upon in 2011 after the UAW agreed to a four-year contract.
Rowe said while production of the F-650 and F-750 trucks initially was pushed back, he does not expect any more delays. Studies are underway to bring a new product line to the Avon Lake plant, he said.