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Ford resolves dispute with UAW workers at Mo. plant

Ford resolves dispute with UAW workers at Mo. plant

Amy Wilson
and Chrissie Thompson

Automotive News | November 15, 2009 – 12:01 am EST


Ford Motor Co. has resolved its workload dispute with workers at its assembly plant in suburban Kansas City, Mo., a spokeswoman said, as employees wrapped up voting to authorize a strike.

Local UAW members had started their vote on Thursday and had planned to finish Saturday. But a team of senior Ford management and national Ford union representatives met on Friday with the Kansas City union leaders, Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said.

"They reached resolution on the issues that were on the table,” Evans said.

Jeff Wright, president of UAW Local 249, said the union continued the planned strike vote Saturday and preliminary results showed the approval rate was well above 90 percent.

"It was already posted, and everyone was coming over anyway. It would have been more work to cancel it," Wright said. "It was a formality anyway. We were pretty sure we would get everything ironed out."

He declined to give specifics on the resolution.

Wright had said he expected to resolve the dispute without a strike and that the vote did not mean a walkout was imminent.

"We haven’t even had a chance to talk to our membership yet," he said.

The disagreement stems from the recent changes in work procedures at the plant, which makes the F-150 pickup and Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute crossovers.

Ford says the changes are part of an annual rebalancing that aims to improve plant efficiency. The UAW says it is concerned about overtaxing workers and unsafe working conditions. The changes have resulted in disciplinary procedures for many workers.

Evans said it has been more than 20 years since a strike vote at the local plant level has resulted in a work stoppage at a Ford plant.

The strike authorization vote at the Kansas City plant comes on the heels of UAW members’ defeat of a national concession package proposed by Ford.

Ford wanted contract modifications — including a no-strike pledge in some circumstances — to stay competitive with General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group. Those rivals had wrested greater concessions from the UAW during bankruptcy reorganization.

In late October, 92 percent of employees voting at Ford’s Kansas City plant rejected that concession package.

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