Ford-UAW contract passage in doubt as voting nears end

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 18, 2015 8:06 AM

By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - Workers at two large Ford Motor Co <F.N> plants in Louisville, Kentucky, rejected a proposed four-year labor contract by 2-to-1 margin, putting its passage in doubt as voting at Ford plants factories nears an end.

Of 7,408 votes cast at Louisville Assembly and Kentucky Truck plants, 65.5 percent voted against the contract, according to a UAW official.

In all, just over one-half of those voting so far have rejected the contract, according to a tally of local union results by the Detroit Free Press. There are nearly 53,000 Ford UAW members eligible to vote.

A labor contract at General Motors Co <GM.N> is also in doubt. While members voted to support a deal, formal ratification has been delayed because skilled trades workers voted against the contract, and the union said it is working to address that issue with GM negotiators.

Earlier this fall, union members at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles <FCAU.N><FCHA.MI> overwhelmingly rejected a first proposed pact but supported a second one that is now in effect.

The Fiat Chrysler contract set a pattern followed by GM and Ford, which essentially ends a two-tiered system that paid UAW members hired after 2007 less than those hired before that year.

Voting on the Ford deal will extend through Thursday.

The UAW vice president for Ford affairs, Jimmy Settles, will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. EST Wednesday at Local 600, which represents thousands of workers at several Dearborn, Michigan, plants.

The UAW will need to keep the votes at least close at Local 600 as well as Local 551, which is linked to the Chicago Assembly Plant, for the contract to pass, said Kristin Dziczek, labor analyst with the Center for Automotive Research.

"It was a thin margin going into these big plants voting, and I don't know if it's a healthy enough margin to sustain some big no votes in Kentucky, Chicago and Dearborn," Dziczek said on Wednesday morning.

Scott Houldieson, vice president of Local 551 in Chicago, said workers rejecting the contract in general believe it does not make up for sacrifices they made when Ford lost billions during an automotive industry downturn that included 2009 bankruptcies at GM and Chrysler, which is now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

"UAW members gave up a lot during the four- to five-year downturn. We basically gave up the farm," said Houldieson, pointing to a pay hike they gave up in 2006 and a cost-of-living raise not taken in 2009.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)