(This story has been updated.)
In another sign of growing concern about a slowdown in the auto industry, Ford Motor Co. notified the United Auto Workers that it plans to idle indefinitely up to 230 employees from a transmission plant in suburban Detroit.
Ford made no public announcement of the impending layoffs but did notify United Auto Workers Local 228 in Sterling Heights, Michigan, that the layoffs would begin March 2019. In turn, Local 228 sent a letter about the proposed layoffs to its members. A copy of the letter was reviewed by TheDetroitBureau.com.
The union letter noted that legacy members with seniority would be able to “bump” into other jobs at the nearby Sterling Axle Plant. “In Progression employees with less than four years and six months seniority would be able to post out because of the possible indefinite layoffs at Van Dyke,” the letter said.
The employees “in progression” make less than the top wage specified by the UAW contract because they have not yet completed the “grown-in” steps that lead to the full wage.
“As we continue to rebalance our production to match capacity with customer demand, we are planning a reduction of approximately 230 jobs at Van Dyke Transmission Plant in the first quarter of 2019. All full-time hourly employees affected will be offered jobs at another Ford plant,” Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said in a e-mail.
Ford is offering to transfer workers to fill spots at Ford plants in Romeo, Michigan, north of Detroit, Lima, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois, according to the letter sent by the UAW.
(Ford, Volkswagen talks could wrap up soon. Click Here for the story.)
The letter also noted that UAW Local 228 is currently negotiating with Ford in effort to dissuade the company from going forward with the layoffs as scheduled.
Neither the union or Ford has offered any explanation for the layoffs. The Van Dyke plant, which has about 1,500 employees, builds transmissions used by a variety of Ford utility vehicles, according to the company’s website.
However, the plant also builds transmissions used in vehicles Ford that Ford has cut production, such as the Focus, Fusion and C-Max.
Last month, General Motors announced it was shutting seven plants in North America in response to the declining sales of passenger cars. One of the GM plant’s slated to be phased out next year is the Warren (Michigan) transmission plant.
Ford also announced last month it was phasing out production on two shifts at assembly plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, and Louisville, Kentucky.
(Click Here to see how VW might use Ford plants for production.)
Mindful of the harsh political fallout that followed the GM announcement, including a series of adverse tweets from President Donald Trump, Ford took pains to emphasize that workers displaced by the impending cuts at the Flat Rock and Louisville plants will be offered job at other nearby Ford plants.
Executive Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. also took pains recently to note that Ford will consult with the United Auto Workers before any changes in the company’s production schedule.
No workers will be laid off during the changes, which are scheduled to take place next spring, Felker stressed in an e-mail to TheDetroitBureau.com. In a statement, Ford said workers from the Louisville plant will go work at another Ford plant – the Kentucky Truck Plant – that builds full-size sport utility vehicles.
Ford is adding more than 500 jobs at Kentucky Truck Plant and moving approximately that same number of jobs from Louisville Assembly Plant to nearby Kentucky Truck plant to increase Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator production by 20%.
LAP, which now operates on three shifts, will move to a two-shift operating pattern next spring. Ford is also adding approximately 500 jobs at Livonia Transmission Plant, which builds transmissions for a number of vehicles, including the Ford F-150 and the new Ford Ranger. Employees from the Flat Rock plant will be able to move there.
(To see more about Ford’s cuts at other plants, Click Here.)
Sales of trucks and SUVs have increased in 2018 but automakers are growing more concerned about the prospects for 2019. Toyota, for example, said last week that it expects a modest decline in industry sales next year.