June 24, 2024

Ford Contract Talks Intensify as Union Prepares for Strike

People briefed on the negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private, said that the parties were only beginning to discuss some of the most important issues and that top-level Ford executives had not joined the talks, indicating that no deal was imminent.

The U.A.W. told officials at Ford plants across the country over the weekend to begin forming strike committees and to distribute information to workers about a possible strike.

“At this time, there is no indication that a strike will be necessary, but it is in our best interest to prepare ourselves in the event we are forced to call for a strike,” the latest memorandum to workers said. The memo is regarded as a formality but does allow the union leverage to walk out of talks.

After taking Sunday off, union negotiators began “high-level financial discussions” with Ford on Monday, according to a memo they posted online. A subsequent memo said the parties had agreed to meet for “very long negotiating sessions” this week and that bargaining would continue around the clock when a deal was near.

Ford is the only one of the three Detroit carmakers whose workers are allowed to strike in this year’s talks. Binding arbitration is the only option at G.M. and Chrysler in the event of an impasse, under the terms of their government-sponsored bankruptcies in 2009.

Analysts say they expect Ford’s contract to generally follow the pattern set by the tentative agreement with 48,500 workers at G.M., reached Sept. 16. Voting on the G.M. deal is set to finish Wednesday.

Workers at large plants in Flint, Mich.; Arlington, Tex.; Parma, Ohio; and Spring Hill, Tenn., have voted for the deal, which would create or retain 6,400 jobs and move some work to the United States from Mexico. The Spring Hill plant, which was mostly idled in 2009, would reopen if the contract were ratified.

“For the most part, they feel like it was a good agreement,” said Michael Cartwright, the president of Local 276, which represents 2,400 workers building sport utility vehicles in Arlington. “They understand the state of the business — that things are better but not we’re totally out of the woods because of the economy.”

Workers would be guaranteed bonuses of at least $8,000 over the four years of the contract, plus larger profit-sharing checks. Adam Jonas, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, estimated in a report Monday that workers would collect a total of $40,500 in bonuses throughout the contract, based on his forecasts for G.M. profits.

The deal is receiving widespread approval from entry-level workers, who earn about half as much as longtime workers and would get raises of several dollars an hour if the contract passes. At a parts processing plant near Flint where all 450 hourly workers earn entry-level wages, 88 percent voted in favor, according to a posting by Local 651 officials on Facebook.

But the deal was rejected over the weekend at a plant near Lansing, Mich., where about 3,400 workers build crossover vehicles and few receive entry-level wages. Local 602 said on its Web site that only 34 percent of production workers and 43 percent of skilled trades workers voted yes.

Ratification of the deal would resolve some of the uncertainty that has helped drive down the value of G.M. stock. Shares fell below $20 for the first time on Friday and closed Monday at $21.08, well below the $33 public-offering price last November. By buying out highly paid skilled trades workers and replacing them with entry-level employees, G.M. can make up for the larger bonuses, Mr. Jonas, the Morgan Stanley analyst, said.

“The contract not only offers greater flexibility, it offers the potential of greater profitability for G.M.,” he wrote.

Although the union is primarily focused on reaching a deal with Ford, negotiators have continued to meet with Chrysler. Bob King, the U.A.W. president, met with Chrysler’s chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, on Friday, they said in a jointly released statement. The union and Chrysler agreed to extend their contract, which was set to expire Sept. 14, through Oct. 19.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=a4286d8e9b6a1d6967ecf5c46d9bba3a

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