Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ford screws the next generation

Young workers hard hit
Seniority shelters some employees
Cincinnati Enquirer

Monday's announcement that Ford Motor Co. will close its sprawling Batavia Township transmission plant leaves some workers with options, but for others, the future is less certain.

Under the United Auto Workers contract with Ford, workers with high seniority might elect to transfer to other Ford plants - potentially displacing some employees with little seniority at the company's plant in Sharonville.

Esther and Norbert Overbeck, who live in Bethel, have about 30 years each with Ford. The couple met when Esther was hired at the company's now-closed Fairfax transmission plant in 1977.

"I have 29 years seniority,"
Esther, 60, said. "Workers with my seniority, I think, will have options to keep working. It (plant closing) won't have the impact that it'll have on the younger employees."

"I don't have any children working there, and I'm glad I don't now."

Norbert, 59, had been planning to retire at the end of this year anyway. "I've been there 33, 34 years now," he said. "The good Lord blessed me, I guess ... the timing is good."

The announcement came as no surprise to Joe Phelps, a 15-year salaried plant employee. He said the plant had existed in a state of uncertainty since Ford entered a joint venture with German-based ZF Friedrichshafen AG six years ago to operate the transmission plant.

Phelps, a 50-year-old quality manager, said the outlook for the plant turned worse when Ford bought back ZF's stake about a year ago.

"We have known since the joint venture collapsed a year ago that the plant's future was bleak," he said.


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