UAW Signals Willingness to Help Troubled Ford

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The United Auto Workers union is willing to discuss further buyouts and other cost-cutting measures to help ailing Ford Motor Co., a top union official said.

Bob King, a UAW vice president who heads the union's dealings with Ford, made his comments Monday while speaking at a conference in Dearborn hosted by JP Morgan.

"We wouldn't rule out anything," said King, who was elected to his post at the UAW convention in June. "We're open to whatever helps the company and protects our members."

King also said the union could support an alliance with a foreign automaker as long as it helps the company and secures union jobs.

Last week, Ford more than doubled its second-quarter loss to $254 million. It also forecast a loss for its luxury division, expanded a major recall, saw its monthly sales fall behind Toyota Motor Corp. in the United States for the first time and hired a mergers and acquisitions specialist to advise its CEO.

"We understand the crisis at Ford," King said. "We have to be far more aggressive in finding a solution."

King's comments follow a veiled warning at the convention from UAW President Ron Gettelfinger that it's time for a different relationship with the domestic automakers because they are facing difficult times.

In the past year, the UAW has agreed to historic cuts in health care benefits for retirees and to unprecedented buyout agreements to reduce the work force at General Motors Corp. and Delphi Corp.

King praised Ford's new management team in North America led by Mark Fields, executive vice president and president of the Americas. He said the UAW and Ford are working together to address cost and competitiveness issues.

"When the UAW and Ford are aligned and committed, we have a great history of success," he said.

Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said King's comments indicate the UAW sees that it has a role in helping Ford restructure.

"I think those comments are really indicative of just the cooperative relationship that we have with the UAW," she said Tuesday.

Late last year Ford started offering $100,000 and early retirement packages to workers mainly at plants the company has planned to close or cut production.

Ford expects to eliminate 12,000 hourly jobs by the end of the year with the buyouts and through attrition as part of its "Way Forward" restructuring plan. The company wants to cut 25,000 to 30,000 jobs and close 14 facilities by the end of 2012.