UAW reaches contract agreement with Ford as GM workers vote this weekend

GM Arlington Assembly Planot

DETROIT (AP) — The United Auto Workers union has reached a tentative contract agreement with Ford, a sign that union leaders expect General Motors workers to approve a similar four-year deal.

The UAW said it reached an agreement with Ford on Friday morning. The contract covers 53,000 workers at 22 U.S. plants.

No details were released, but Ford’s agreement is expected to be similar to the contract GM workers are expected to approve this weekend. Voting at GM plants was scheduled to end Friday evening.

Like a previous contract ratified by Fiat Chrysler workers, GM’s agreement would eliminate a two-tier wage system over eight years. The agreement also promises bonuses, profit-sharing payments and the first raises for top-tier workers in a decade.

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Ford plant leaders will meet Monday in Detroit to discuss the agreement. If they approve it, details will be released to members, who would then vote on it.

“The agreement, if ratified, will help lead the Ford Motor Company, our employees and our communities into the future,” Ford’s global labor chief, John Fleming, said in a statement.

Fiat Chrysler workers rejected their first contract agreement in early October, but ratified a sweetened deal late last month with a vote of 77 percent in favor. GM and the UAW reached their own agreement just before a strike deadline on Oct. 25.

At GM, voting was fairly close early this week, but several large union locals approved it Friday.

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Glenn Johnson, president of one of two locals at the sprawling Lordstown, Ohio, complex that makes the Chevrolet Cruze, said 72 percent of 3,000 workers at the assembly plant voted yes.

In addition, 65 percent of 1,400 workers at an adjacent parts stamping plant also voted in favor, said local President Robert Morales.

Also Friday, the contract passed with 53 percent in favor at a factory with about 3,500 workers outside of Lansing, Michigan, according to the union local’s website. That plant that makes the Chevrolet Traverse and other SUVs.

If approved, the four-year contract would cover 52,600 GM workers at 63 U.S. facilities.

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However, the GM ratification could be delayed because although production workers appear to have approved the deal, it looks like skilled trades workers rejected it.

Skilled trades workers such as pipe fitters and electricians, may be able to thwart the ratification.

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg wouldn’t comment other than to say the union is “interested in hearing the issues that the skilled trades have.”

UAW President Dennis Williams had promised — and won — richer benefits from GM, which is a bigger and wealthier company than Fiat Chrysler. GM reported last month that it earned $1.36 billion in the third quarter.

The union was also seeking a richer contract from Ford, which earned $1.9 billion in the third quarter, including a record $2.7 billion pretax profit in North America.

GM currently pays recent hires around $15.78 per hour. Under the new agreement, workers with four or more years of experience will make the top $29 hourly wage within four years; workers with less experience would make between $22.50 and $28 in four years and top wages in eight years.

Williams said lower-tier workers — who make up 20 percent of GM’s hourly workforce — will now be eligible for traditional health care benefits. Both tiers of workers would get an $8,000 signing bonus if they ratify the contract, higher than the $3,000 and $4,000 bonuses offered at Fiat Chrysler. And the profit-sharing formula in GM’s proposed agreement promises $1,000 per $1 billion of GM’s North American profits. Fiat Chrysler is giving workers $800 based on percentage gains in its North American margins.

GM’s proposed contract also offers $60,000 for up to 4,000 eligible employees who agree to retire next spring.