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Ford, UAW reach tentative deal


Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative contract Saturday without the strikes and public ill will that marked negotiations with General Motors Corp. and Chrysler this fall.

Ford employees might not sign off on the deal so easily, however, having watched their GM and Chrysler counterparts get hit with layoffs and cutbacks after agreeing to their new contracts.

The ink was barely dry on the UAW’s contracts with GM and Chrysler when the two automakers announced they would eliminate shifts at assembly plants and lay off workers. Chrysler said last week it will cut between 8,500 and 10,000 hourly jobs through 2008. Last month, GM said it would cut shifts at three Michigan plants, affecting 1,700 jobs.

A person briefed on the deal said Ford scaled back plans to close some U.S. plants and promised significant product investments to ensure those plants will remain open for now. In exchange, the agreement allows Ford to pay lower wages to thousands of new hires, a provision already agreed to in contracts with GM and Chrysler. The person requested anonymity because the union hadn’t released details.

Ford’s four-year contract with the UAW expired Sept. 14 but had been extended while negotiations continued. The contract covers 54,000 U.S. hourly workers including more than 2,700 in Avon Lake.

Nick Gallogly, chairman of UAW Local 2000, which represents employees at the Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, would not discuss specifics of the contract.

“I want the membership to hear it from me before the media,” he said.

Gallogly also would not discuss if a component of the contract negotiation or subsequent agreement called for the possible closure of the Avon Lake plant, which reportedly was dangled by Ford in talks with national negotiators as they sought out a favorable deal.

“Thanks to all the hard work of all the employees, the future of the Ohio Assembly Plant looks bright,” he said this morning. “City, county and state officials should be very pleased at the bright future of the Ohio Assembly Plant.”

If a majority of Ford hourly workers voting approves the contract, it would end four months of intense negotiations and put in place three historic contracts that slash wages and change the way health care is provided to retirees. The UAW represents approximately 54,000 Ford workers.

The tentative agreement must be voted on by the membership before it can be ratified.

Gallogly said the local membership would get details soon. A vote of the membership will take place at each union local hall; however a date for such a vote has not been determined, he said.

Ford already had announced its intent to shut down 16 North American factories as part of a restructuring. The company has identified 10 of the closures, but has yet to announce the remaining six.

Among the closures are three in Ohio — a transmission plant in Batavia near Cincinnati, a stamping plant in Maumee near Toledo that closed last month, and a casting plant in Brook Park.

The tentative four-year contract was reached around 3:20 a.m. Saturday.

Ford also said the deal allows it to move its estimated $22 billion in retiree health care obligations to a union-run trust. The company didn’t say how much it will have to contribute to the trust. GM and Chrysler have similar agreements in their contracts.

Staff writer Lisa Roberson and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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