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Ford and UAW Nearing Agreement on Contract Changes

Ford and UAW Nearing Agreement on Contract Changes

 

By David Bailey

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DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co (

F) is getting close to a deal revising its contract with the United Auto Workers, according to a person briefed on six-week-old talks in which the automaker has aimed to gain concessions the union has already granted to GM and Chrysler.GM) and Chrysler, and Ford has aimed the latest discussions at addressing further cuts granted by the union to those cross-town rivals.

Local officials representing U.S. hourly workers at Ford have been summoned by union leadership to Detroit on Tuesday for briefings on the talks over changes Ford seeks in its existing agreement with the UAW. Those talks started formally in late August.

In previous contract talks with Ford and other automakers, UAW leadership has used meetings in Detroit to brief local officials on the outlines of tentative agreements shortly before the proposals are brought to ratification votes.

Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said the automaker was continuing to work with the UAW to improve competitiveness.

"We are making progress together, but we consider our discussions to be private and we have nothing to announce," Evans said on Friday.

The UAW had no immediate comment.

The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions between the UAW and Ford are ongoing.

The UAW reached four-year contracts with all three Detroit automakers in 2007, but has agreed to make unprecedented mid-contract concessions to the companies amid the severe recession and deep downturn in auto industry sales.

UAW workers at Ford agreed to mid-contract concessions early in 2009, ahead of General Motors Co (

The agreements with GM and Chrysler include a no-strike clause for the next contract, fewer skilled-trades classifications and wage freezes for new hires.

GM and Chrysler both have gone through government-supported bankruptcies, while Ford has not sought emergency U.S. government loans and has said it expects to return to at least break-even in 2011.

Ford global manufacturing chief Joe Hinrichs has said the company would face disadvantages over the long term without concessions from the union, though it would not be disadvantaged in the near term by its current UAW agreements.

The automaker has held a series of meetings at U.S. plants to present its case for further union concessions to bring its costs broadly in line with those of its rivals.

Local union leaders in a meeting with the top UAW officials in early August expressed opposition to further concessions to Ford, said Gary Walkowicz, a bargaining committee member at the local representing workers at Ford’s Dearborn truck plant.

"I’m certainly opposed to any more concessions, and I have been for a long time," Walkowicz said.

The Ford talks with the UAW opened formally on August 25.

A UAW local representing Ford workers in Dearborn, Michigan, reported on its website on Friday that a meeting of local leaders is scheduled for Tuesday morning and a national delegation meeting will be held in the afternoon.

The planned Tuesday meeting of UAW local leaders with the national leadership was reported earlier by the Associated Press and Detroit Free Press.

Ford also is seeking concessions from the Canadian Auto Workers union. The CAW said on Thursday that it would resume full-scale discussions with Ford on October 26.

The CAW seeks guarantees of future plant investments in Canada by Ford, while the automaker wants to address a labor cost gap. Labor costs run about $16 per hour higher for Ford in Canada than they do in the United States.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Derek Caney, Gary Hill)

 

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