Ford, UAW Contract Close to Approval

Agreement includes a $6,000 signing bonus, pay hikes for second-tier workers and a commitment from Ford to add hundreds of workers at plants around the U.S.

The United Auto Workers union has moved closer to ratifying a new labor contract with the Ford Motor Co. after workers at two major plants gave the deal their approval, the UAW said.

Last week, the UAW's chief negotiator with Ford, Jimmy Settles, had warned that rejection of the contract -- which covers 41,000 workers at Ford -- could lead to a strike against the country's number two automaker.

But workers at a major assembly plant in Kansas City, Mo., and at a manufacturing complex in Dearborn, Mich. served up big "yes" votes, apparently salvaging the deal.

Overall, as of Sunday evening, 14,845 workers have voted for the contract and 9,076 have voted to reject, according to the UAW -- meaning 62% of those who have cast ballots have voted yes.

The agreement includes a $6,000 signing bonus, pay hikes for second-tier workers and a commitment from Ford to add hundreds of workers at plants around the United States, according to information posted by the UAW on Facebook.

It also includes $16 billion in U.S. investments -- including $6.2 billion for Ford plants in the United States -- all to design, engineer and produce more new and upgraded vehicles and components by 2015.

UAW Local 600, which includes workers at the Dearborn plant, reported that 3,255 voted yes, while 2,027 voted to reject the proposed agreement. In Kansas City, workers voted overwhelmingly -- 2,701 to 291 -- in favor of ratification.

Ford workers had voted down contract changes in 2009, and dissidents have complained the proposed contract did not recover the concessions they have made since 2007 to help the company, which avoided bankruptcy during the 2008-09 crisis in the industry.

The lack of pension improvements and the lack of any improvement in base wages also have contributed to the discontent among workers, some of whom have organized a "no" campaign on the Internet.

Rejection of the contract could have set the stage for a bruising conflict, including a potential strike, that both the UAW and Ford would prefer to avoid.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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