Ford to Begin Buyouts

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Ford Motor Co. will begin offering buyouts or early retirement packages to all 75,000 of its U.S. hourly employees starting next week.

Salaried workers will have more than one opportunity to accept a buyout. But employees represented by the United Auto Workers will have from next Monday until Nov. 27 to either choose one of eight buyout programs or stay on with the financially struggling automaker.

The programs include lump-sum payments of up to $140,000 and tuition reimbursement in addition to more traditional early retirement packages.

Dearborn-based Ford was to start conducting career fairs and educational workshops Tuesday to help blue-collar workers weigh their career options.

"We've put what we think is a very generous offer on the table," Martin Mulloy, Ford's labor relations vice president, told The Detroit News on Monday. "We want to make sure each employee has the best information available to make that decision."

The company believes enough workers will take the buyouts so that the remaining employees will be able to remain with Ford if they are willing to move, Mulloy told the Detroit Free Press.

Ford has said it intends to cut about 30,000 hourly jobs and 14,000 salaried jobs by the end of 2008. The new cuts would reduce Ford's total North American work force by 29 percent, from the current level of about 130,000 to about 92,000 by the end of 2008.

Ford's method of reducing its labor force is similar to cuts made earlier this year by larger rival General Motors Corp. About 34,000 hourly GM workers have accepted buyouts or early retirement offers, and the company also cut 2,000 salaried workers.