Magazine article Workforce Management

Tuition Offer May Cushion Ford Job Cuts

Magazine article Workforce Management

Tuition Offer May Cushion Ford Job Cuts

Article excerpt

LABOR RELATIONS

There may be an inkling of good news for the thousands of workers at Ford who learned last week that they may lose their jobs as the Detroit auto company made the much-awaited announcement of its "Way Forward" plan, which will cut 25,000 to 30,000 jobs in the next six years.

Just days before, Ford made an announcement that might ease the pain of its own employees as well as workers at its competitors: a new tuition program. Under it, workers at Ford's Edison, New Jersey, plant, which closed in 2004, and the 1,500 workers who were laid off in December after Ford closed its Avon Lake, Ohio, plant, can receive up to $15,000 a year toward school as long as they go full time. They also receive full medical benefits and half of their usual hourly salary.

Marcey Evans, a Ford spokeswoman, says she did not know how many workers would accept the tuition assistance or whether the company would offer it to all 1,100 workers in the company's Guaranteed Employee Numbers Program, more commonly known as a job bank, which provides laid-off workers with full salary and benefits.

Such job banks have become increasingly costly for the Big Three automakers as layoffs increase. That's why Ford's move right now makes sense.

"This is going to be a huge negotiation point for the Big Three in 2007 when the UAW contracts expire," says Scan McAlinden, a director in the economics business group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Job banks cost about $130,000 per worker, McAlinden estimates. …

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