The Next Chapter for Ford’s 38,000 Hourly Workers

The country’s second-largest automaker announced that 38,000 hourly workers, including 6,000 hourly employees at former Visteon Corp. plants, have agreed to accept early retirement or buyout packages.

The workers who accepted the various severance or retirement packages will begin to leave the company starting in January, with the remainder staying through September 2007.

Though many are retiring from the workforce, many other skilled workers will be seeking new career opportunities.

For some, this may result in some workers seeking temporary assignments to hone their training, notes Dennis Lynn, senior corporate recruiter at Kelly Services in Troy, Michigan.

“There are a whole array of issues based on so many people, but one of the issues is going to be about what salaries they have been offered at Ford. Other companies may not be able to offer the same thing. I don’t know exactly what the salaries were, but I know there are some pretty hefty salaries out there,” says Lynn.

In fact, when it announced its staff-cutting plans in September, Ford said it would offer all 75,000 U.S. hourly workers cash incentives as high as $140,000 if they give up some promised benefits and leave the company.

“The layoff includes a wide array of people — not only in manufacturing but administrative positions as well,” says Preston Harden, owner and chief executive officer of Magna Consulting Group, Inc., which helps company personnel develop strategies to achieve successful re-employment.

In addition to new manufacturing opportunities, Harden says some of the affected auto-industry workers might make excellent consultants for other auto firms.

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“Particularly now, there are a lot of opportunities for consultants, though it depends on what their skill-sets are and their assessments.”

Harden suggests that another strategy is to contact the Ford human resources department directly, explaining which opportunities are currently available, “since HR is designed to help from an employee-relations department. The problem is, we don’t know who those people are, so it’s going to be hard to target those people and get in touch with them.”

Harden says he considered running an article or advertisement in local newspapers that serve the areas where the affected workers live.

“Similar to a press release, an ad is a different way to contact people to help them realize their potential. You’re not sure who the people are, or their exact skill-sets, so what we thought about doing is just listing the types of opportunities and then including a contact name and phone number.”

With half of Ford’s 75,000 hourly accepting the company’s offers to leave, the company says this will speed up additional plant closings and will result in an annual cash outflow of $17 billion through 2009, with $7 billion of the drain connected to employee departures.

The hourly job cuts do not include a Ford target of trimming more than 10,000 salaried staff. Some of those workers have already left the company, with Ford saying more job cuts are in the works.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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