Ford deal would keep trucks here (Louisville, KY)
Union workers at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant will vote Wednesday and
Thursday on a company-proposed agreement that assures Super Duty truck
production stays in Louisville but would eliminate most overtime.
The deal between Ford and the United Auto Workers also would convert the
work week from five 8-hour days to four 10-hour days and eliminate some
union-held jobs at the plant through attrition.
Ford's proposal to 4,800 union workers at the Chamberlain Lane plant
resembles the agreement overwhelmingly passed in March by autoworkers at
the Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road. Most of Ford's North
American plants have approved similar concession agreements in the last
As sales have continued to slump in the wake of a $12.7 billion loss
last year, Ford says it's trying to cut costs to compete with Asian
"It is a changing world and we have got to accept these changes. We have
got to do this to have a future," United Auto Workers Local 862
president Rocky Comito said yesterday. "Someday we will get O.T. back.
Someday we will get these jobs back. But we have to be here to do that."
"The whole idea is to do more with less," Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie
Gattari said. "We are trying to make our plants more efficient."
In taking away the time-honored labor standard of an eight-hour day with
overtime pay thereafter, Ford's proposal states that the "Kentucky Truck
Plant will continue to be the sole producer of current Super Duty Truck
production…. up to 400,000 units."
That's roughly the plant's current capacity, and virtually assures the
survival of the plant, Comito said. "That is the best guarantee there
is," he said.
Ford previously said it plans to close seven assembly plants by 2009 to
regain profitability. Unlike the Explorer-producing Louisville Assembly
Plant, the Kentucky Truck Plant has not been seen as at risk.
Tammie Nelson, who now works five, 8-hour days on the line at Kentucky
Truck, said yesterday that she will vote to reject the agreement with
Ford but expects it will gain approval nonetheless.
"I hate to say it, it probably will pass," said Nelson, 40.
Ford's proposal includes new investments in the plant's body shop and
stamping facilities. Kentucky Truck employees will also work on new
features such as spray-in bed liners and a fifth-wheel hitch for hauling
The most veteran employees will be affected by a plan to eliminate
sought-after "bid jobs" through attrition. They include driving and
maintaining fork lifts, repairing power tools, manning store areas and
delivering material to the lines.
But compensation lies at the heart of the concessions, which rankles
Losing overtime after eight hours "is the hardest thing for me to take,"
said line worker Tim Coward, 35. "This is something that could really
change Ford from now until ever."
Proposed plant schedules vary, with some overtime pay remaining. Body
and Paint line workers would receive overtime only on hours 11 and 12,
if required, for each day of the four-day workweek. Trim, Frame and
Chassis workers could labor a 50-hour, 10-hour-a-day week, with overtime
paid for hours nine and ten.
The loss of overtime pay after eight hours represents more ground lost
by union workers nationwide who have surrendered cost-of-living
increases, pension benefits and health care subsidies over the years,
labor historian Jim Moran said yesterday.
"People died on picket lines for these things back in the day," said
Moran, 67, a former UAW member and labor historian based in
Philadelphia. "So many contracts fought for in blood spell out time and
a half after 8 hours."
More tough times lie just ahead for Ford and the United Auto Workers.
This summer, health care costs for retirees and workers are expected to
be at the center of contract talks between Ford and the UAW for the
national contract that expires in September.