Ford-UAW deal stumbles early

October 28, 2009

Ford-UAW deal stumbles early

6 of 8 locals against concessions backed by union leaders as more plants ready for vote

The Detroit News

Union workers at two more Ford Motor Co. factories voted down proposed concessions aimed at putting Ford on comparable ground with General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, according to results released Tuesday.

That means six of eight United Auto Workers locals that have voted so far rejected the changes endorsed by union leaders. Locals that already have voted represent about 14,500 of Ford’s 41,000 UAW employees.

UAW Local 3000, which represents workers at a Flat Rock plant where the iconic Ford Mustang and Mazda 6 are built, voted against the concessions Monday by a 74 percent margin. And 52 percent voted no at UAW Local 898, which represents Ford’s Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti.

The rejections further underscore the importance of votes later this week at some of Ford’s largest facilities, including the Dearborn Truck Plant and the Kentucky Truck/Louisville Assembly plant. Voting at those facilities ends Friday; voting at all locals is expected to be completed this weekend.

Ford’s tentative agreement with the UAW is intended to bring the automaker to near-parity with GM and Chrysler, which won givebacks from the union during bankruptcy. Ford’s deal includes a freeze on wages and benefits for new hires and changes in work rules that would give Ford greater flexibility in how it deploys workers in factories.

The deal also limits the union’s right to strike. If the agreement is ratified, Ford workers — like their counterparts at GM and Chrysler — would not be able to strike if they cannot come to terms on wage and benefit increases during national contract talks in 2011.

In addition, the tentative deal guarantees future work at Ford plants in the U.S. and gives workers a $1,000 bonus to reward their contributions to improving vehicle quality.

A simple majority among all UAW members who vote is needed to approve the deal. A combined tally of "yes" and "no" votes for the locals that have already voted was unavailable Tuesday.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger has said the concessions are necessary to maintain pattern bargaining, which for decades has essentially assured equality in wages and benefits at Detroit’s auto companies. But union dissidents appear to be winning the debate on the factory floor.

"It’s concession after concession and I don’t see people at the top sacrificing," said Rico Jones, a worker at Sterling Axle in Sterling Heights, where the plan was rejected by 80 percent of voters.

Union members at other plants, including Wayne Assembly Plant, Michigan Assembly Plant and three engine plants in Cleveland, voted narrowly in favor of ratification last week.

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