Ford plans layoffs, union official claims

Saturday, January 24, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- A United Auto Workers official said he has been notified that Ford Motor Co. will announce layoffs at its Hazelwood assembly plant.

The UAW has no details except that layoffs will be announced Monday and could start as early as April 26, said UAW Local 325 president Ken Dearing.

Still, the union hopes it can avert the loss of a shift, he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a copyright story.

"The UAW is trying to scare up a new product for the plant and prevent the loss of a shift," Dearing said. "I have plenty of faith in them after what they did during last year's labor talks."

Ford has said layoffs were part of a plan to keep the facility in suburban St. Louis open through 2007.

In September, Ford said it needed to cut one of Hazelwood's two shifts because of waning demand for the sport utility vehicles assembled there. The facility -- which employs about 2,750 people -- builds the Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs.

Ford spokesman Ed Lewis said he had no information about pending layoffs. But he added: "We did say last year that we would reduce employment to a single shift in 2004."

Hazelwood Mayor T.R. Carr said the pending layoffs come as no surprise.

"This is exactly what we were expecting Ford to do," he said. "The important thing to remember is that we're keeping a shift and the plant is in position to get a new product" in the future.

Efforts by the United Auto Workers and the Ford Hazelwood Task Force last year persuaded Ford to reverse its decision to close the plant by mid-decade.

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