US car giant Ford signs new labour deal with UAW union

The four-year agreement averts a strike at Ford and helps to secure 8,500 jobs.

    Ford has historically had a better relationship, compared with its rivals, with the United Auto Workers union, with which it has made a tentative agreement on issues including pay raises, the use of temporary workers and healthcare insurance [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
    Ford has historically had a better relationship, compared with its rivals, with the United Auto Workers union, with which it has made a tentative agreement on issues including pay raises, the use of temporary workers and healthcare insurance [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

    After a crippling strike that cost its rival General Motors about $3bn, the United States's second-biggest carmaker Ford has agreed to a tentative labour deal with the United Auto Workers union. 

    The union turned to Ford to negotiate a new four-year agreement after ratifying a contract last week with GM following the 40-day US strike that shut down almost all of GM's North American operations.

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    Detailed terms of the deal were not released, but they are expected to echo those agreed to with GM, as the union typically uses the first deal as a pattern for those that follow.

    "The pattern bargaining strategy has been a very effective approach for UAW and its members to secure economic gains around salary, benefits and secured over $6bn in major product investments in American facilities, creating and retaining over 8,500 jobs for our communities," UAW Vice President Rory Gamble, head of the union's Ford department, said in a statement.

    Ford confirmed the deal in a statement but declined further comment.

    UAW leaders from the various US plants will meet on Friday to approve the deal, which will then be sent to the 55,000 members at Ford for final approval, a union spokesman said.

    Ratification is not a sure thing, as union members at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV in 2015 rejected the first version of a contract.

    Ford and the UAW began talks on Monday covering larger issues such as pay raises, the use of temporary workers and healthcare insurance coverage, but the union previously said the sides had made "significant progress" addressing smaller issues.

    Ford historically has had an easier relationship with the union than its Detroit rivals. Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford has described the UAW as "family" in the past and in September 2018 hailed the Dearborn, Michigan, company's relationship with its hourly workers.

    "The UAW doesn't just make our workers better, it makes Ford better and stronger," Bill Ford told UAW workers last year.

    Under the deal with GM, the carmaker agreed to invest $9bn in the US, including $7.7bn directly in its plants, with the rest going to joint ventures. It also said it would create or retain 9,000 UAW jobs. The GM contract also will provide $11,000 signing bonuses to members, and pay raises.

    Under its deal, GM also will close three plants, but it left the UAW members' healthcare insurance coverage unchanged.

    Once the Ford deal is ratified, the UAW will turn to Fiat Chrysler to complete its quadrennial talks with the Detroit automakers.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency