Thursday, February 02, 2006

Here's a real surprise...

Layoffs hit Black auto workers hardest
By: Chris Nisan
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

“I don’t see Ford going under, but they are sure going to be small,” said auto worker Azariah of Ford Motor Company’s future in the aftermath of the company’s recent announcement of massive layoffs and plant closures in an interview with the Spokesman-Recorder. Azariah, who goes by the single name, is a 20-year member of the United Auto Workers union at Ford Motor Company’s Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul.

The local facility is under consideration for closure by the auto manufacturing giant, along with a number of other plants across the country. “There is a wide range of opinion among workers,” said Azariah, “but the common denominator is that no one wants to see it close.”

Ford announced several weeks ago that it would slash up to 30,000 jobs within the next four years and shut down 14 factories. Last week, the automaker made public the first plant closures that included facilities in St. Louis, Atlanta, and Wixom, Michigan. In total, the proposed cuts amount to 25 percent of its North American payroll.

The Twin Cities plant was on the original short list of factories to be closed, but it dodged the bullet in this first round of shutdowns.

Crisis in the auto industry

Confronted with steadily declining sales and profits, the two other U.S. auto manufacturers, General Motors (GM) and Daimler-Chrysler, have taken similar actions to confront the profit crunch and intensifying competition.

GM announced several months ago its intent to cut 30,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada, cuts that amount to 17 percent of its labor force. Last week, Daimler-Chrysler said that it would eliminate 6,000 white-collar jobs, 20 percent of its administrative work force around the world.

In all, the so-called Big Three U.S. auto companies have cut or declared plans to cut almost 140,000 jobs since 2000. That is about one-third of the entire North American payroll. “This may not be the end, but it is certainly the beginning of the end of the automobile industry as we knew it,” said Gary N. Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in an article in the New York Times.

The source of the problem for the “Big Three” is the worldwide crisis of overproduction in the manufacture and sale of automobiles. The result of this has been intensifying competition and declining profit rates.

As this competition has intensified, Ford and GM in particular have lost a significant portion of the U.S. market. At the same time, automotive manufacturing monopolies based in Asia have increased their share of the U.S. market to 31 percent last year.

All together, the share of the market owned by U.S. auto companies dropped to 58.7 percent last year, according to Autodata Corp. Chrysler — which is majority-owned by German automaker Daimler — is the only U.S.-based auto manufacturing company that increased its share of the market last year, with a four-percent gain.

Azariah explained the impact this has had on production in Ford’s Twin Cities plant: “With a line speed of 50 jobs per hour and a 40-hour work week, we produce 8,000 trucks a month per shift. We have two shifts, which equal 16,000 trucks per month. Over the last two months, Ford has only sold in the area of 8,000 trucks.”


1 comment:

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