The economic impact of indefinite layoffs will not be felt by auto workers until late this year or early in 1981 due to unemployment benefits. But up to one year of continuing income will not relieve the ordeal for the jobless or potentially heavy losses for communities.
A combination of United Automobile Workers (UAW) supplemental unemployment benefits, state jobless benefits, and federal trade adjustment assistance will assure most auto workers 95 percent of their regular pay in layoffs for as long as one year.
The measures that will provide all but $12.50 of regular weekly wages are "a series of palliatives that run for various periods," according to Howard Paster, UAW's legislative director in Washington. "They provide relief for the short term only. They offer none for the future."
The UAW estimates 220,000 auto workers are idle now.
This is the immediate prospect for most of the 4,000 workers idled by the recent Ford assembly plant cutbacks in Mahwah, N.J.:
* They can count on UAW supplemental unemployment benefits, paid from a Ford-UAW reserve fund, that will guarantee most 95 percent of their regular weekly wage. This is payable for up to one year. The guarantee is for the difference between what workers get from other sources and the maximum.
* Because they will be involuntarily jobless, the Mahwah workers will be eligible for state unemployment benefits -- as high as $123 a week in New Jersey and $125 a week in New York.
* The federal trade adjustment program, designed to help companies and workers seriously affected by foreign competition, will pay eligible Mahwah workers benefits for 26 weeks if enrolled in a free retraining program; 80 percent of the costs of a job search, up to a maximum $500; up to 80 percent of relocation expenses, with a $500 limit, and other forms of assistance.