Business & Finance

Ford said it will trim what it pays contract-labor firms by 7 percent and is considering cutting 8,000 white-collar jobs, or 20 percent of its workforce, the Detroit Free Press reported. The 7 percent, across-the-board reduction will be effective Nov. 19 and could save the automaker tens of millions of dollars, the newspaper said. Ford employs 6,000 to 7,000 contract workers, including engineers, designers, and computer specialists who handle large chunks of its engineering and information-technology responsibilities.

Employees of embattled Sabena walked off the job in Brussels, and the Belgian national airline was canceling flights as its board decided whether to file for bankruptcy. The wildcat action was sparked by rumors that the company was nearing its end and could be liquidated by the end of the week, with little hope that more than a fraction of its 12,000 staffers would be retained by an eventual successor. Against that backdrop, the British carrier and only known potential investor in a proposed Sabena successor, Virgin Express, announced it was unhappy with the state of rescue plans, although "talks are continuing." Some analysts said the final collapse of Sabena could be a significant step toward the long-awaited consolidation of European commercial aviation.

Another 2,500 layoffs were announced by SAS, the joint flag carrier of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, on top of the 800 to 1,100 it said would be let go in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the US.

In its latest move to relieve pressure on the troubled Argentine economy, the Buenos Aires government offered to trade $60 billion in locally held bonds - almost half its debt - for longer-term issues that would pay lower interest. A similar exchange involving foreign owners of bonds is to follow. But analysts said it was unclear how many bond-holders would want to participate in the new program. Argentina, mired in a recession that has dragged on since mid-1998, owes creditors $132 billion - an amount equal to almost half of its gross national product.

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