Friday, March 23, 2007

Ford Cuts, Fletcher Cheers

From Louisville Courier-Journal:

Union workers at Ford's Explorer plant in Louisville will vote soon on cost-saving concessions for the troubled automaker. The vote at the Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road may happen in the next week, Ford spokeswoman Anne-Marie Gattari said yesterday.

She said she didn't know details of the so-called competitive operating agreement. Deals at other plants have loosened work rules and allowed the company to shift some work to non-UAW employees. "The bottom line is our plants are working very hard to turn our business around, and we applaud them for that," Gattari said.

Messages left for Louisville UAW leaders were not returned yesterday. The news comes with Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher expected to sign legislation this week allowing about $200 million in tax rebates and other incentives to Ford if it upgrades its two Louisville plants. Workers at 34 of Ford's 42 plants in North America have approved concessions, Gattari said, including Ford's Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, Michigan, which makes the Expedition sport utility vehicle.

The Louisville Assembly Plant employs more than 3,000 and builds the Explorer SUV, which has seen sales plummet amid higher fuel costs and changing consumer tastes. The poor Explorer sales have many concerned that the plant could be one of the plants Ford will close by 2009. Five of the seven plants slated for closure have been identified. The plant has endured weeklong shutdowns, and Ford plans to run its assembly lines slower, requiring fewer workers, to produce fewer vehicles.

The Kentucky Truck Plant, which has more than 5,000 hourly and salaried workers and is Ford's largest North American factory, builds the high-profit F-Series Super Duty truck. While the factory is generally considered to be at low risk for closing, truck sales have been hurt by higher fuel prices and a decline in the national home-building market.

Last year UAW leaders agreed to change the shift structure at the Chamberlain Lane plant to eliminate scheduled overtime. Fletcher, who supports the incentives passed by the General Assembly, has until tomorrow to sign the legislation.

As Fordfare passes, Ford mulls cuts. Someone silence Fletcher’s celebrating.

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