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Ford, UAW Step Up Pace of Contract Talks

Ford Motor and the United Auto Workers union Tuesday intensified the pace of negotiations for a new labor contract, a person familiar with the talks said.

Ford announced today that it is cutting production by 21% resulting in downtime at the assembly plant in St. Thomas Ontario on Friday Aug. 18, 2006. Ford Motor Co. announces sharp cuts in its North American production that would force it to partially shut down plants in the U.S. and Canada in the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/Canadian Press, Geoff Robins)
Geoff Robins
Ford announced today that it is cutting production by 21% resulting in downtime at the assembly plant in St. Thomas Ontario on Friday Aug. 18, 2006. Ford Motor Co. announces sharp cuts in its North American production that would force it to partially shut down plants in the U.S. and Canada in the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/Canadian Press, Geoff Robins)

Contract talks between Ford and the UAW have been moving slowly after the union extended its previous contract with the automaker so it could focus on wrapping up deals with General Motors and Chrysler.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger on Tuesday joined other union negotiators at the bargaining table, the source said.

A Ford spokeswoman declined to comment on the talks. A UAW spokesman could not immediately be reached.

Working-level negotiators from Ford and the UAW had met at the automaker's Dearborn, Mich., headquarters over the weekend.

But bargaining on some of the main issues between Ford and the union had not begun before Tuesday since the union leadership, including Gettelfinger, has so far remained focused on the final ratification votes on a tentative labor contract with Chrysler.

Ford, widely seen as the weakest of the three embattled U.S. automakers, has already made it clear that it will push for deeper concessions from the union than those offered GM or Chrysler, a position negotiators made clear in early talks.

In addition, Ford has indicated it was looking for about 8,000 to 10,000 additional factory job cuts, one of those briefed on the negotiations said. That would be in addition to the 27,000 UAW jobs Ford had cut as of June.

The automaker, which posted a record loss of $12.6 billion in 2006, has announced plans to close 16 plants as part of its restructuring in North America, although it has not named six of those facilities.

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