So many Ford workers took exit bonuses that the automaker has hired temporary replacements to keep up production.
Ninety temporary workers start their jobs today at Ford's Buffalo Stamping Plant in Hamburg. They take the places left by some of the 420 production workers who opted to cash out in 2007, union officials said.
Ford Motor Co. offered severance bonuses and retirement incentives ranging from $35,000 to $100,000 to production workers last fall. Dec. 22 was the last day for workers who opted for one of 10 offers to change their mind and remain on the job. Nationwide, 38,000 workers opted for incentives.
"We have said all along we will backfill with temporary hires" to maintain production, spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari said.
Ford expects to replace the temps in Hamburg with transfers from other plants that face shutdown. Plans call for closing 16 factories over two years as the company's market share shrinks.
However, if enough transfers don't make the switch to Buffalo, at least some of the local temps may wind up in long-term jobs.
"Historically, nobody comes to Buffalo," said Charles Gangarossa, president of United Auto Workers Local 897 in Hamburg. Workers hit by shutdowns in Michigan usually have other transfer opportunities closer to home. "We may get some people from Atlanta," he said.
Most of the departures were completed Monday, but Ford may delay some critical workers' exits until September. The departures leave about 850 production workers, Gangarossa said.
The temporary workers are nominally part-timers, but may work full 40-hour weeks. Initially, they earn three-quarters of the full union wage of $28 an hour, with increases every six months until reaching the full rate in 18 months. Unlike permanent union workers, their jobs are not protected from layoffs.
Production levels will determine if more temporary help is needed, Gangarossa said. Orders for the new Edge crossover vehicle and its cousin, the Lincoln MKX, are booming, he said, a good sign for the local work force. The metal stamping plant shapes almost all of the vehicles' body panels like doors, fenders and hoods.