Voting on new deal begins today for hourly Ford workers

October 8, 2011

Voting on new deal begins today for hourly Ford workers

/ The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co.’s hourly workers at 58 locals begin voting today on whether to ratify a four-year tentative agreement between the automaker and the United Auto Workers.

A few Ford locals will hold their votes over the weekend in a process that will stretch to Oct. 18.

The proposed four-year contract includes at least $16,700 in assorted bonuses and profit sharing as well as 5,750 new entry-level jobs as part of $16 billion in investment of which $6.2 billion will be spent on plants.

Jobs and investment at assembly, powertrain and stamping plants across the country could be key to winning approval of an agreement that some workers say does not include enough monetary gain. The only wage increase is for entry-level workers.

An agreement with General Motors Co. — ratified Sept. 28 — saved or added 6,400 jobs, with investment for seven plants.

Ford is a smaller company with 41,000 hourly workers; GM has 48,500.

But Ford is promising investment at 20 of its 24 plants and 12,000 new or retained jobs over four years, including the nearly 6,000 all-new positions.

“By comparison, it seems so much larger,” said Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. “Ford held back on their investments to be able to announce them all now.”

GM and Chrysler did not have that luxury, in part because the cadence of their new product plans was thrown off by bankruptcy restructuring. After their federal bailout, they scrambled to rebuild their portfolios and had to announce some investments immediately. In May, GM announced it would invest $2 billion at 17 facilities in eight states to save or create 4,000 jobs.

“GM would have held their investments if they could have but they had to hit the market at the right time,” Dziczek said.

“Ford had the luxury to hold off. They would have made some of the investments anyway, absolutely. But at the table they decided where some went,” she said, adding that work to be brought in from Mexico, China, Japan and Europe could have stayed in those countries or Ford could have put the work in Canada or Mexico instead.

UAW President Bob King and Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president-Ford Division, said surveys confirmed job creation and security are a top priority.

King said more money is meaningless if the cost is layoffs.

Settles said the membership will “vote their own conscience.”

He plans to attend as many of the information sessions as he can, starting with one Friday at Dearborn Truck that one attendee said attracted about 75 people.

Dearborn Truck is taking the unusual step of holding an extended vote through Oct. 14.

Settles said he wants to ensure the membership has ample time to make an informed decision.

The specter of reopening contracts in 2009 is still fresh: Ford workers settled first and were later asked to match concessions GM and Chrysler Group LLC subsequently gave as part of bankruptcy restructuring. Ford workers voted against changes.

“In 2009 we did some things too fast,” Settles said.

This time around, the union took its time reaching an agreement and used social media to update members.

Social media is also proving to be a way to express dissatisfaction. “When it comes to intelligence please don’t insult mine by trying to sell this crappy deal,” Scott Johansen of Chicago posted to the UAW-Ford Facebook page.

Another post suggests Local 782 in Louisville advocates a strike on its website but fails to recognize the picket information was posted Sept. 19, long before a Ford tentative agreement was reached Oct. 5.

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