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Ford: 1,700 workers take early retirement offer

By Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT (Reuters) - About 1,700 Ford Motor Co's workers accepted early retirement buyouts that were offered last fall as part of the No. 2 U.S. automaker's labor contract with the United Auto Workers union, a Ford spokeswoman said on Friday.

About 920 of those who accepted the buyouts were higher-paid skilled-trades workers, Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said on Friday. The majority of Ford workers taking the payouts will leave the company by June 1.

In all, workers taking the buyout represent 4 percent of the 41,000 UAW workers employed by Ford. The buyouts allow Ford to hire entry-level workers who begin at $15.78 an hour, about half the wage of a veteran UAW worker.

Under Ford's UAW contract, eligible production workers who take an early retirement package will get a $50,000 bonus, while skilled-trades workers will receive a $100,000 payout.

In October, Ford said it expected up to 1,000 skilled-trades workers would take the buyout offer.

Ford also has 250 workers on indefinite layoff, who can also be rehired to fill the vacant spots.

Ford projects lower-paid workers will make up about 8 percent of its factory workforce by 2015, up from fewer than 100 workers when negotiations with the UAW began last summer.

Ford's payout was far richer than the early retirement packages offered by its larger rival General Motors Co .

In the last contract talks, GM offered a $10,000 bonus for eligible workers who retire by 2013 and $65,000 to skilled-trades employees who voluntarily quit by March 31.

(Reporting By Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Richard Chang, Bernard Orr)

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