Ford workers narrowly approve new contract with UAW

21 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ford’s U.S. Union Workers Ratify Contract With Raises For All.

Bringing to a close a tumultuous bargaining season with American vehicle manufacturers, the United Automobile Workers ratified contracts Friday with General Motors and Ford Motor.

In a narrow victory Ford Motor Co.’s U.S. union workers voted to accept a four-year contract that included across-the-board raises, $9 billion in factory investments and $10,000 in bonuses. The deal was ratified by 51.3 percent of production workers and 52.4 percent of skilled-trades workers, the United Auto Workers said in an e-mailed statement. “This agreement provides a good foundation for Ford Motor Company, our employees and our communities as we work together to create an even stronger business in the years ahead,” John Fleming, Ford’s Executive Vice President, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs, said in an e-mailed statement. Ratification was delayed in part because the automaker’s skilled trades workers, about 8,500 employees in all, had rejected the agreement. (These workers in general maintain machines at auto plants, and include electricians, pipe fitters, tool makers and millwrights.) Over all, G.M. workers voted 55.4 percent in favor to 44.6 percent against, but the skilled trades members were 59.5 percent against. Workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV turned down the first contract offer in September, sending the union’s negotiators back to the bargaining table for a sweeter deal that passed by a 3-to-1 margin.-G.M. membership concerns about protecting the core trades classifications and seniority rights have now been met, the International Executive Board took action to formally ratify the U.A.W.

At Ford, the only Detroit-area automaker not to go bankrupt in 2009, the 52,900 UAW members expected even more. “After all the sacrifices and all the years of concessions, now is the time to get it back and people felt they weren’t getting enough back,” said Gary Walkowicz, a union bargaining committeeman at Ford’s F-150 truck factory in Dearborn, Michigan, who encouraged workers to turn down the deal. “If not now, when will we get it back?” With vehicle sales booming and the companies making billions, autoworker expectations have been high. G.M. said in a statement that the four-year agreement was good for employees and business. “We will continue to work with our U.A.W. partners to implement the agreement, and engage our employees in improving the business and building great vehicles for our customers,” the statement said. Hours later, but by a narrower margin, Ford workers ratified their new four-year agreement, also covering about 52,000 employees, the union announced late Friday. Leading up to negotiations this year, UAW President Dennis Williams repeatedly promised workers that this round of talks represented “our time” to recover what had been given up. Veteran workers will receive 3 percent pay increases in the first and third year of the accord, and 4 percent lump-sum payments in the second and fourth years. “There was a lot of pressure for more raises and to get rid of the second tier even faster,” said Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Expectations were not managed well and actually were raised by the UAW with ‘It’s our time”’ rhetoric.

The UAW doesn’t have the clout it once did because as the Detroit Three have diminished through the decades, so has the union’s membership and power. “We used to have 97 percent of the market and now we’ve got 47 percent, so it’s not like it was,” said Bernie Ricke, president of UAW Local 600, which represents workers at the F-150 plant in Dearborn. Ricke, speaking Tuesday at an unusual press conference to get out the yes vote for the contract, said: “There’s pent-up frustration because we went through a very bad economic time and now they see the company making billions. Settles had taken the unusual step on Wednesday of holding a news conference, warning workers that the union was unlikely to get an improved deal if the first one was rejected. Wage increases of $10,633, plus a variety of bonuses and guaranteed payouts would boost the average Ford production worker’s pay by $32,513 over the life of the contract, according to the Detroit-based union. Bell, who said she had worked for General Motors since 1975. “I stopped getting raises over 10 years ago, so you’re not doing me any favors by giving me 3 percent.” In the case of G.M., the union defended the ability of a minority of its members to hold up ratification. “Since its inception, the U.A.W. has put in place a process to ensure that minority groups have a voice,” the union said.

The vote came down to the 8,200 workers at Ford’s famous Rouge complex in Dearborn, built by Henry Ford almost a century ago to manufacture the Model A. It calls for raises for all workers and ends a two-tiered pay system, although it will take a newly hired worker eight years to reach top pay rather than the three years it used to take before 2007.

That model, Ford’s best-seller and biggest moneymaker, is a key reason the company’s North American pretax operating income almost doubled to a record $2.7 billion in the third quarter. “We have leverage,” Walkowicz said. “Ford Motor Co. doesn’t want a strike now with the way they’re selling vehicles.

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