3 locals say no to Ford concessions

Friday, March 6, 2009

3 locals say no to Ford concessions

Most rank-and-file votes so far back deal; Saline plant workers among dissenters.

Louis Aguilar / The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. workers at three United Auto Workers locals rejected concessions to their national labor contract Wednesday, according to union sources, but a majority of rank-and-file members who have voted appear to endorse the changes.

Workers at Woodhaven Stamping; the Lima, Ohio, engine operation and Ford’s Automotive Controls Holdings LLC in Saline voted against the measures Wednesday.

The proposed amendments to the national contract would not cut wages but would allow Ford to save billions and make the struggling automaker more competitive with its foreign rivals, analysts contend.

But Wednesday’s results shows the changes are too much for some rank-and-file members to swallow.

At Woodhaven, the plan was rejected by 73 percent, according to four workers leaving the plant Thursday afternoon. The plant has 1,243 active workers, according to Ford’s media Web site. "They just have too many layoffs here and (they’re) cutting back on our hours," said one of the workers.

At UAW Local 892, which represents 600 workers at the ACH plant in Saline, the contract modifications were turned down by a 76 percent margin, local officials said. A slimmer margin — 51 percent — voted against it at Local 1219, which represents 650 workers in Lima, according to a union source.

Also on Wednesday, Local 1250, representing 1,255 workers at Ford’s Brook Park, Ohio, complex, voted 60 percent in favor, UAW local officials said.

At least 10 locals representing about 15,000 Ford employees have voted. Results are known for eight locals, with five approving the concessions. The locals approving the changes represent about 10,600 UAW members, while the three dissenting locals represent about 2,490 workers.

A simple majority must ratify the agreement. The deadline to complete the vote is Monday, and several locals with a large number of members have yet to vote.

The contract changes in question would allow Ford to cover half of its payments into a UAW-run trust to cover retiree health care with company stock instead of cash — a move that would also dramatically dilute investors’ equity in the company.

While the proposed deal leaves base wages intact, workers are being asked to give up cost-of-living pay increases, performance bonuses that were worth $500 last year and an annual Christmas bonus worth $600.

It suspends the controversial jobs bank program, which pays workers even when they are laid off, but guarantees at least partial pay for up to two years for those with the most seniority. The pact also would allow Ford to change the way that skilled-trades work is performed at some plants.

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