LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Ford Motor Co.'s latest round of production cuts because of the global semiconductor shortage includes a prolonged shutdown of Louisville Assembly Plant starting next week and lasting through mid-July.
The plant, which makes the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair SUVs, will be down for six weeks starting Monday and then for another two during its normal summer shutdown, marking July 19 as a potential return date, according to UAW Local 862 memo dated Wednesday and obtained by WDRB News.
Herb Hibbs, the plant's building chairman for UAW Local 862, told WDRB the union will try to secure work for members during the down period completing builds of Super Duty pickup trucks made across town at Kentucky Truck Plant.
But it's too soon to say whether that plan will come to fruition or how many LAP workers might be able to pick up hours, Hibbs said. The plant employs 3,900 hourly workers, according to Ford.
LAP has already gone dark for six full weeks in 2021, but each of the shutdowns has been no longer than two weeks. Wednesday's announcement marks the most prolonged work stoppage yet this year.
UAW Local 862 President Todd Dunn, who has held the position for 12 years, said he couldn't recall either of Louisville's Ford plants shutting down for such a prolonged period.
Longer-tenured UAW workers are entitled to a benefit that replaces about 75% of their normal pay during layoffs, but the plant has many "temporary fulltime" status workers who don't get that benefit, Dunn said.
Meanwhile, like thousands of others in Kentucky, Ford workers have had trouble getting unemployment benefits, Dunn said.
"It's really stacking up against our members; they definitely feel it," Dunn said. "I'm getting calls every single day, 'Todd, help me with my unemployment.' ... We're not the unemployment office, but I got guys that are killing themselves trying to help them out."
"It's a struggle for all automakers right now,” says Kelly Keith, a Base Operator. She's been with the company coming up on a decade.
"I'll be laid off as long as they tell us, and hope that I have a job to go back TO.”
She, among the other hourly workers, is not surprised about the shutdown, but rather the length of it.
"You would be hard-pressed to find another job to pay what Ford pays. We're lacking Union jobs in Kentucky- good paying union jobs," said Keith.
Ford manufacturing vice president John Savona said in a memo Wednesday that seven North American plants, including LAP, will experience additional downtime because of the global shortage of computer chips. No changes were announced for Kentucky Truck Plant.
Ford executives said in late April that the company expected to lose half of its planned production in the April-June quarter, with hopes to make up some of the lost units in the second half of 2021.
Savona announced the following plant changes (in his words):
- Chicago Assembly Plant will be down the week of May 31 and will operate on a reduced schedule the week of June 7
- Flat Rock Assembly Plant will be down the weeks of May 31 and June 7
- Dearborn Truck Plant and Kansas City Assembly Plant – truck line – will be down the weeks of May 31 and June 7 and will operate on a reduced schedule the week of June 14
- Hermosillo Assembly Plant will be down the weeks of June 21 and 28
- Louisville Assembly Plant will be down the weeks of May 31 – week of June 28 (LAP previously announced a closure during the week of May 24)
- Oakville Assembly Complex will be down the weeks of May 31 - week of June 21
- Ohio Assembly Plant will produce only Super Duty Chassis cabs and Medium Duty trucks the weeks of May 31, June 7 and 14
In addition to trying to secure "repair" work on Super Duty trucks made across town, Dunn said the union is to ensure access to Ford "benefit representatives" who can help workers during the layoff.
"The obvious goal is to try to keep as many people working as possible, right? And then triage everything else," he said.