UAW-Ford talks, GM deal vote hit the home stretch

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 27, 2011 8:23 AM
UAW-Ford talks, GM deal vote hit the home stretch

DETROIT (Reuters) - Talks between the United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Co for a new labor contract as well as ratification of the proposed agreement with General Motors Co were nearing a conclusion.

"We have accelerated our talks," Joel Goddard, co-chairman of the UAW Ford National Negotiating Committee said in a recorded call on Monday evening, citing the involvement of UAW President Bob King in the constant meetings with Ford negotiators.

"We are optimistically hopeful that we will have good news for our membership by the end of the week," he added.

Teams of negotiators for the union and Ford, the only U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy, have been meeting for about two months. Financial issues typically are addressed in the final stages of negotiations.

The union began an intense focus on Ford a day after the UAW, failing to finalize a deal with Chrysler Group LLC, extended its contract with the Fiat SpA-controlled automaker until October 19.

Chrysler and UAW negotiators held "high-level" discussions over the weekend and were scheduled to continue on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, UAW-represented workers have begun voting on a tentative four-year deal reached a week ago with GM. Union officials hope to wrap up that voting by Thursday and early results show most union locals supporting the deal.

As of Tuesday morning, at least 15 union locals had voted for ratification, three had voted against it and 35 more had yet to vote, according to a union dissident group and reports by individual union locals.

The GM deal would keep or create more than 6,000 factory jobs, raise wages for entry-level workers, and guarantee all workers bonuses of at least $11,500 over four years.

The Detroit labor talks will set wages and benefits for about 112,500 union-represented autoworkers and establish a benchmark for wages at auto-parts suppliers and nonunion plants run by Asian and German automakers.

New four-year contracts for GM and Chrysler workers would be the first since those two companies were bailed out by the Obama administration in 2009. UAW-represented autoworkers have gone without a base pay increase since 2003.

The uncertain outlook for auto sales in 2012 and the risk of a renewed U.S. recession have made the Detroit automakers reluctant to offer traditional wage increases. Also, GM and Chrysler UAW workers gave up the right to strike for these contract negotiations as part of the government bailout.

The talks with Ford, playing out at the company's Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters known as "the Glass House," will be patterned roughly after the deal that covers 48,500 GM employees.

Ford's roughly 41,000 UAW-represented workers have the right to strike and have the highest expectations for wages and bonuses because of the automaker's performance. The UAW has not had a strike at Ford since 1976.

The union has made job retention and expansion a top goal in the talks. The UAW may seek to have Ford shift work from Mexico to U.S. plants, something the union touted in its deal with GM.