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A thousand Hazelwood jobs will be cut in April; 200 more to be gone from Claycomo next month.
January 30, 2004
Hazelwood — As mayor of this St. Louis suburb, T.R. Carr knew for months that Ford Motor Co. likely would cut one of the two shifts at its assembly plant in exchange for pulling the 50-year-old site off its closure list.
The world's second-largest automaker made it official Thursday, announcing it will eliminate the plant's second shift by April 26, cutting 1,000 jobs that draw an estimated combined payroll of $60 million.
Even with the advance warning, Carr winced at the news.
"It's never easy to take," he told reporters Thursday in Hazelwood City Hall. "I really feel a sense of loss for the men and women whose jobs are lost."
Displaced workers would be offered jobs at other Ford sites nationwide, spokesman Ed Lewis said from the automaker's headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.
"We struggle with these decisions. It's a tough one, but it's necessary to align consumer demand with production in the company's business structure," Lewis said.
Across the state in suburban Kansas City, Ford will lay off 200 hourly workers — 100 on Feb. 6, then the other half a week later — from its 5,600-worker Claycomo plant, where the F-150 pickup truck and Escape SUV are made, Lewis confirmed Thursday.
Workers affected there will be those with less than one-year seniority, namely many of the employees Ford hired last year to bolster its launches of the 2005 F-150 and the 2005 Escape, Lewis said.
In 2002, Ford announced it would close the Hazelwood plant, which employs 2,700 people, by mid-decade but reversed its decision last September, agreeing as part of its latest contract with the United Auto Workers to keep the site open at least through 2007.
A task force appointed by Gov. Bob Holden to encourage the automaker to spare the plant cheered the decision to keep the plant open. As part of the deal, Ford will get $9 million in state incentives and $8 million in local tax abatements. Carr said that deal was tied to the company's agreement to invest at least $100 million to modernize the factory.
Holden said word of the layoffs was no surprise.
"When we had the discussions (with Ford), we knew this was a possibility," Holden said at a news conference in St. Louis on an unrelated matter. "We'll try to work with Ford in trying to minimize the impact on all those 1,000 people" facing pink slips.
Said Carr: "Ford has been in Hazelwood for 50 years; our plan is to keep Ford in Hazelwood another 50 years."
Carr said Hazelwood and the task force will continue working with Ford and the UAW in hopes of keeping the plant open past 2007. Carr also hopes sales of SUVs improve enough to prompt a return of the second shift at a factory where he said worker salaries average $60,000 a year.
"We cannot rest on our laurels and assume that because we have one shift the future's secure," Carr said.
While the layoffs smart, Carr says the blow perhaps has been softened by the growing breadth of Hazelwood's industry, from aerospace to auto-parts supplying, biotech interests and retailing.
"We hope to offset this loss," he said.
UAW Local 325 President Ken Dearing did not return messages.