Ford to Bump Workers to Higher-Paid Tier

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

Ford Motor Company said it will move 300 to 500 workers, mostly in Chicago, into a higher pay grade to meet requirements under its labor agreement with the United Automobile Workers union.

Wages for those workers will increase by about $9, to $28.50, per hour, Ford said.

The labor agreement limits Ford’s use of so-called second-tier workers to 20 percent of its workforce. Wages for second-tier workers are capped at $19.28 per hour.

“It’s a really great day for us,” said Bruce Hettle, Ford’s vice president of manufacturing in North America.

Hettle said the company is in the process of identifying those workers who will be moved into the higher pay grade. Eligible workers will be selected by seniority.

Ford has added about 1,500 hourly workers at a Chicago assembly plant since 2011, when the current contract was ratified. The plant’s 3,800 workers make the Explorer, Taurus and Taurus SHO, the Police Interceptor and the Lincoln MKS.

Ford also has a stamping plant outside the city, where it employs 1,200 workers.

Nationwide, Ford said it has hired more than 14,000 hourly workers since 2011 for a total of about 50,000. It expects to add 1,550 this quarter as it ramps up production of its new aluminum-bodied F-150 model.

The Ford-UAW 2011 labor agreement expires in September. The company and the union are expected to begin contract negotiations in the summer.

Ford is one of nine companies that brokered a deal with Illinois lawmakers that allows companies that maintain or add jobs to retain their employees’ state-tax withholdings instead of forwarding them to the state. The company has received about $20 million in tax-credit certificates, or vouchers, tied to that deal since 2010, according to data from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.