Ford to Lay Off 700 Workers at Plant Making Small Cars, Hybrids

Ford Motor Co. said it’s laying off a shift of 700 workers at a Michigan factory that builds small cars, hybrids and electric vehicles that are attracting fewer buyers.

The plant in Wayne, a Detroit suburb, produces the Focus small car and C-Max hybrid, which had U.S. sales declines last month of 15 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Ford expects to redeploy the workers to other Michigan facilities during the next year, said Kristina Adamski, a spokeswoman.

Ford is about to enter talks with the United Auto Workers to replace a contract that expires in September. The automaker wants to lower its labor costs, which it says are uncompetitive. Ford’s average U.S. hourly labor expense, including benefits, is $57, about $9 more than at Toyota Motor Corp. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s U.S. unit, according to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

While the reduction at the Wayne plant “is unfortunate, it is not completely unexpected,” Jimmy Settles, the UAW vice president who oversees relations with Ford, said in a statement. “It is expected that nearly all of the displaced members will return to active employment at other southeast Michigan locations, some as soon as this summer and all by early 2016.”

The UAW has said it wants raises for both its top-level assembly workers, who are paid $28 an hour, and its second-tier employees, who top out at $19.28. The union would like to eliminate the second tier, which the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said has been critical in its ability to hire more than 15,000 workers in the U.S. since 2011.

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