It's not usually a good sign when your boss starts talking to you about what you want to do with the rest of your life. If they start leaving the help wanted classifieds on your desk, things are really getting bad. If they actually bring in a number of other employers to recruit amongst their workers, it must be Ford's Way Forward Plan in overdrive. That's exactly what Ford did yesterday in Norfolk, by hosting its first Opportunity Workshops and Opportunity Fairs. The goal of the workshops is to help hourly workers find the best buyout package for their particular situation.

And let's not forget, this is a workforce of 75,000 people we're talking about. Between Oct. 16, and Nov. 27, workers need to select one of eight different retirement, education or other "separation" programs. The specific details about each of these programs come after the jump, but some of the biggest ones include tuition reimbursement for a two- or four-year college degree, a $100,000 lump sum payment or $35,000 retirement incentive.

Besides the workshops that will help explain each program, nearly 75 local employers, colleges and universities will be on hand at the Norfolk Assembly Plant today for the first Opportunity Fair, as well. They will be able to provide info, answer questions and sign up interested employees. Some of the organizations expected to turn out are Norfolk State University, ITT Technical Institute, Hampton Fire Department, Norfolk Southern Railroad, Old Dominion University, Virginia Beach Sheriff's Office, Fantastic Sams and Smithfield Foods, among others.

[Source: Ford]

Full Press Release:


NORFOLK, Va., Oct. 10, 2006 - Ford Motor Company [NYSE: F] is taking an important step in the acceleration of its Way Forward plan in Norfolk today by holding the first in a series of employee Opportunity Workshops and Opportunity Fairs, intended to help hourly employees determine which available buyout package is right for them.

Ford is offering buyout packages to its entire U.S. hourly workforce, approximately 75,000 people. Employees have between Oct. 16, and Nov. 27, to select among eight different retirement, education and other separation programs. The programs include tuition reimbursement for a two- or four-year college degree, a $100,000 lump sum payment or $35,000 retirement incentive, among others (see below for additional details of each).

"Though we are doing what we must to fix our business in North America, we truly have the best interests of our employees in mind," said Marty Mulloy, Ford Motor Company vice president, Labor Affairs. "We are providing a wide variety of buyout options for employees to consider, and we are committed to providing them with as much information as possible to help them through the process of transitioning into their lives after Ford."

In an effort to help employees through their decision-making process and to provide relevant information about their options, Ford and the UAW are holding Opportunity Workshops and Opportunity Fairs at nearly every manufacturing location in the United States. The workshops are designed to provide information about topics including how to start a business, going through a relocation and going back to school. The Norfolk Opportunity Workshop is being held today at the local union hall and is open to all Ford Motor Company employees.

In addition, approximately 75 local employers, colleges and universities and franchise companies will set up booths at Norfolk Assembly Plant for an Opportunity Fair tomorrow, to provide information, answer questions and potentially recruit interested employees. Specifically, the Norfolk fair will include representatives from Norfolk State University, ITT Technical Institute, Hampton Fire Department, Norfolk Southern Railroad, Old Dominion University, Virginia Beach Sheriff's Office, Fantastic Sams and Smithfield Foods, among many others.

Employees who accept packages will leave the company between January and September 2007. Plans are in place ensure smooth transitions upon employee departures.

- # # # -

Details of Ford's Package Offering Include:

Special Retirement Incentive – for employees with 30 years of service or more and are at least 55 years old, or are at least 65 with one or more years of service. Financial incentive of $35,000 pre-tax check.

Special Early Retirement – for employees who have reached age 55, but not normal retirement age, and who have ten or more years of credited service under the Ford-UAW retirement plan. Provides unreduced life income benefits for the life of the retiree, and temporary benefits payable until age 62 and one month.

Pre-Retirement Leave Program – For employees with at least 28, but less than 30 years of credited service. Ends with retirement when the employee reaches 30 years of service. Employees will receive 85 percent of straight-time pay. After they reach 30 years of service, they would receive their regular retirement.

Special Termination of Employment Program – For employees with at least one year of service receive a gross lump sum payment of $100,000. Retirement eligible employees must wait 23 months before retiring.

Educational Opportunity Program – For employees with at least one year of service, includes tuition reimbursement for up to $15,000 a year for up to four years paid directly to the approved college or vocational school, and an annual stipend worth 50 percent of the employee's annualized straight-time wage rate. Health insurance and other benefits continue during this four-year period, but participants must enroll in school full time (at least 12 credit hours per semester) and maintain a "c" average to remain eligible. Benefits and the living expense stipend end after 4 years, or when the employee receives their degree/certification/license.

Enhanced Special Termination of Employment Program – Under this program, UAW-Ford employees with at least 30 years of credited service under the Ford-UAW Retirement Plan or are at least 55 years old with at least 10 years of credited service will receive a lump sum pre-tax payment of $140,000. Retirement may take place immediately, and workers electing this option will receive any pension benefits for which they are eligible at that time, based on length of service. They also will be provided with basic health care coverage for a period of six months, but will be ineligible for post-retirement health care and life insurance benefits .

Focused Education Opportunity Program – Similar program to Educational Opportunity Program described above, except that employees selecting this option will receive two years of tuition payment, up to $15,000 per year and 70 percent of wages, instead of 50 percent.

Family Scholarship Program – Employees electing this program agree to terminate their employment at Ford, and will receive a Scholarship Fund totaling $100,000, which can be used for approved educational expenses for their children, spouses and grandchildren. Funds will be taxed upon withdrawl. Funds will be available for a 10-year period from the employee's date of termination and if the funds are not used within the time period, the scholarship funds will be forfeited.

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