Business & Finance

Details of Ford's long-awaited plan to restructure operations are to be released today, with Detroit newspapers reporting that it is all but certain to hit unionized workers far harder than those in white-collar jobs. Citing unnamed executives, the Detroit Free Press said Ford's directors were considering an increase in blue-collar layoffs from 12,000 to 14,000 and a decrease in nonunion cuts from 8,000 to 5,000. The United Auto Workers Union was not yet commenting on the plan, which also is expected to involve the closing of at least two assembly plants. Restructuring is designed to save the automaker $4 billion a year.

In other layoff news:

• Some 7,000 unionized workers at Verizon's local telephone businesses accepted a buyout offer last month, the company reported. That's on top of 7,500 jobs cut during the first three quarters of 2001. New York-based Verizon is the US's fourth-largest long-distance carrier.

• Cigna, the third-largest health insurance company, announced plans to cut 2,000 jobs and to take an after-tax charge of $65 million for the fourth quarter of last year as it consolidates operations. Cigna is based in Philadelphia.

• British unions were vowing to fight AugustaWestland's plan to cut 950 jobs. The company, a leading maker of military helicopters, said that with two major orders almost complete, it will close one plant in southwestern England and consolidate operations at another in April.

• About 300 people, or half the staff, are expected to be let go over the next few weeks at Walt Disney Co.'s newly acquired ABC Family Channel, sources at the company told the Los Angeles Times.

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