Ford, UAW reach tentative deal

ByABC News
November 3, 2007, 2:31 PM

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract early Saturday morning, the union said in a statement.

The deal, reached around 3:20 a.m. after 44 hours of bargaining, must be ratified by the UAW's approximately 60,000 members at Ford. If approved, it would bring a close to historic negotiations that have yielded agreements designed to return U.S.-based automakers to profitability.

Unlike recent agreements reached with General Motors Corp. and Chrysler, this deal was forged without a brief strike. Those contracts, which featured the transfer of retiree health care liabilities to a union-run trust and hiring new non-core workers at significantly lower wages and benefits, have both been ratified.

The Ford-UAW deal includes a similar retiree health care liabilities plan, according to a company statement, which did not disclose the level of funding for the trust or whether new hires would come in at a second tier of wages and benefits.

"Though we will not discuss the specifics of the tentative agreement until after it becomes final, we believe it is fair to our employees and retirees, and paves the way for Ford to increase its competitiveness in the United States," said Joe Laymon, Ford group vice president for human resources and labor affairs.

Ford's Way Forward turnaround plan for North America, which aims for profitability in 2009, had called for closing 16 plants, eliminating 44,000 jobs and revamping the company's Ford, Mercury and Lincoln lineup. But only ten of those plants had been identified when UAW talks started in July.

Ford's financial position is considered fragile. The 104-year-old Dearborn automaker lost a record $12.6 billion in 2006 and it is expected to lose money again this year, despite a first-half profit of nearly half a billion dollars.

The UAW said in a statement early today that details of the new agreement will officially be provided to union members at explanation and ratification meetings at UAW Ford local unions. No time frame was given for ratification.