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Ford stamping plant faces layoffs Shutdown in Ontario will decrease demand for parts, idling about 150 workers here

The impending shutdown of a Ford Motor Co. factory in Ontario will soon hit home in Hamburg, with previously announced layoffs taking effect.

Ford will close an assembly plant near St. Thomas, Ont., in about two weeks. As a result, Ford's stamping plant on Route 5, which supplies the St. Thomas facility with stamped metal parts, will begin laying off workers Sept. 12, said Patrick Radtke, president and chairman of Local 897, United Auto Workers.

About 150 hourly workers at the Hamburg plant will be laid off, while about 500 hourly workers will remain. That was the same number of layoffs Ford notified the state Department of Labor about in June, said a Ford spokeswoman.

Radtke said the hourly workers who will be affected by the layoffs are responding in different ways. Some are hoping they will be called back to work soon, while others are signing up to transfer to jobs at Ford plants in Louisville, Ky., and Chicago.

Under the UAW's contract, laid-off workers are eligible for a combination of state unemployment benefits and supplemental benefits from the company. The exact percentage could not be obtained Monday.

The closing of Ford's St. Thomas plant, about 160 miles from Buffalo, has been anticipated for about two years. The site, which employs 1,200 people, makes the Ford Crown Victoria and Lincoln Town Car. Production of the Town Car was scheduled to end Monday, said Lauren More, a Ford spokeswoman.

In November 2009, Ford confirmed the St. Thomas plant would close in the third quarter of 2011. A Ford executive at the time said the vehicles made there were no longer required in the automaker's product portfolio and that no replacement product could be identified.

The St. Thomas plant's portfolio also included the Mercury Grand Marquis, before the vehicle was phased out. Ford is working with local officials to find a buyer for the Ontario facility, More said.

While the St. Thomas plant is closing, the Hamburg plant continues to supply metal parts to another key customer, a Ford assembly plant in Oakville, Ont., that produces the Ford Edge and Flex and the Lincoln MKX and MKZ.

Radtke said the Oakville plant's production is going strong, helping offset the impact of losing the St. Thomas plant.

No new products have been announced for the Hamburg plant that would fill the void created by the St. Thomas plant's closing. The UAW and Ford are in the midst of contract talks. Whether new work for the Hamburg plant will emerge from the negotiations remains to be seen.

The layoffs are coming as American Axle & Manufacturing, another part of the region's automotive manufacturing industry, has announced it will close its Cheektowaga plant in February, eliminating 86 jobs.

Meanwhile, General Motors' Town of Tonawanda engine plant is preparing for two new engine lines that are expected to bolster its employment.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com