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Ford workers take early retirement offers

DETROIT – About 1,700 Ford Motor Co. factory workers have decided to take early retirement offers and will leave the company by June 1.

The automaker says it will bring back about 250 laid-off employees and hire some replacements at lower wages.

Ford offered the buyouts to all 41,000 factory workers last fall in an effort to cut its skilled trades and production workforces. It offered skilled trades workers like electricians and plumbers $100,000 to retire. Production workers were offered $50,000. The company has about 9,000 skilled tradesmen, which it says is too many.

Spokeswoman Marcey Evans said Ford won’t replace all of the retiring workers. New factory hires will be paid around $16 per hour, a little more than half the wage of a longtime union worker. Skilled tradesmen make above $30 per hour, but changes in factory equipment in recent years have cut the number of workers needed.

Southern Sky Air seeks Chapter 11 protection

NEW YORK – Just three days after abruptly stopping service and leaving travelers stranded, the parent of discount airline Direct Air has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Southern Sky Air & Tours LLC late Thursday filed for Chapter 11 protection in Massachusetts. Court documents show the company has between $10 million and $50 million in debt and just $500,000 to $1 million in assets. The company has not yet filed several documents required by the court as part of the bankruptcy filing process, including a list of its top 20 creditors. The airline said it has 100 to 200 creditors, which could include everything from fuel suppliers to airports.

The airline abruptly stopped flying Monday afternoon – at the peak of the spring break travel season – apparently because it couldn’t pay its fuel bills. Direct Air, based in Myrtle Beach, S.C., says it will not fly again until May 15. Ticket holders were told to contact their credit card companies for refunds.

An attorney for Direct Air did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment on the bankruptcy filing.

Honda hybrid claims settle at up to $200

SAN DIEGO – A judge tentatively approved a settlement to give owners of Honda Civic hybrids up to $200 cash over claims that the cars’ fuel economy was inflated, casting aside arguments that a motorist’s victory in small claims court entitled them to a larger award.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor said the essence of a settlement is compromise.

“No doubt plaintiffs would have loved to have gotten more; certainly their counsel had every incentive to get as much as possible. … Honda undoubtedly has many arrows left in its quiver, and certainly would have preferred to pay nothing,” he wrote.

The judge gave no signs of reconsidering after opponents voiced objections one last time in his courtroom Friday. He gave no timetable for a final ruling.


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