Ford, UAW Arrive at Tentative Agreement

Proposed four-year pact follows pattern on VEBA plans


Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers union have agreed to four-year national labor agreement for roughly 54,000 workers at the second-largest U.S. automaker. If approved by Ford's employees, as have been similar pacts at General Motors Corp. and Chrysler, it would resolve the labor concerns of the domestic producers as they proceed with radical restructuring efforts.

Details of the tentative agreement have not been released, but it is understood to include a transfer of Ford's obligations for retiree health-care costs to a Volunteary Employee Beneficiary Assn., or VEBA, as have been initiated with the recent contracts agreed to by the UAW with GM and Chrysler. Ford's retiree health-care obligations have been estimated at about $22 billion.

“Our bargaining committee came through for our active and retired members,” stated UAW president Ron Gettelfinger. “Our team is proud of each and every negotiator because they have encouraged Ford to invest in product and people while addressing the economic needs of our active and retired members.”

"Our goals for this contract were to win new product and investment, to enhance job security and protect seniority -- and we made progress in all these areas," stated Bob King, the UAW's chief Ford negotiator, said in a statement.

A Ford spokesman, group v.p.-Human Resources and Labor Affairs Joe Laymon stated the agreement is "fair to employees and retirees, and paves the way for Ford to increase its competitiveness in the United States."

News reports have indicated Ford's goals in the contract included the right to close six more plants and eliminate a further 8,000 to 10,000 employees, after a year in which it has eliminated about 27,000 positions and closed 10 plants. Other reports have indicated Ford would agree to relent on those goals, in exchange for other union concessions.

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