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Union, Ford Extend Contract

Strike was averted by continuing bargaining past contract expiration.

The United Auto Workers on Sept. 13 eased back from a potential strike at the Ford Motor Co. by approving an indefinite contract extension with the automaker. The current UAW contract was scheduled to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14 and the union could have automatically called a strike. Union members approved a strike at Ford earlier this month.

"I can confirm that Ford and the UAW have agreed to continue bargaining past the expiration of the current contract in an effort to reach a tentative agreement that is in the best interest of both parties," said Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans.

The UAW is also negotiating a new contract with GM and Chrysler. The union is barred from strikes against either GM or Chrysler by the terms of the 2009 federal bailout of the two companies.

The UAW's negotiations with Ford, while ongoing, have lacked the intensity for last several days that suggested the bargaining is moving towards a climax.

Lewis Booth, Ford's chief financial officer, told a conference for investors in London over the weekend that he expects labor talks to extend past the deadline. "We expect to continue to work and to continue the discussions," Booth said.

Harley Shaiken, a labor expert from the University of California-Berkeley, said he expects the auto workers to emerge with a settlement probably at GM around the deadline on Sept. 14. "I don't think you gain anything by extending the talks," he said.

The bargaining position of all three automakers appears to have hardened in the face of signs of an economic slowdown and declining consumer confidence.

The automakers are resisting the UAW's top demand, which calls for boosting the pay of second tier workers.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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