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Ford Workers Reject Contract Changes

Ford workers have overwhelmingly rejected contract changes that would have allowed the automaker to cut labor costs.

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)

The United Auto Workers union had given local unions until Monday to complete voting. But a person briefed on the voting said Saturday that the contract changes have been rejected by large margins. The person asked not to be named because the UAW hasn't announced the results yet.

The UAW and Ford agreed to the contract changes several weeks ago, but Ford workers needed to ratify them. Ford has 41,000 UAW-represented workers.

Two large union locals in Kentucky and Ford's home city of Dearborn rejected the contract Friday, sealing its fate. Those unions together represent 13,000 Ford workers. Exact tallies weren't available, but at least 12 UAW locals representing about 27,500 workers vetoed the deal, many overwhelmingly. Only about four locals with a total of 7,000 members favored the pact.

Ford sought the deal to bring its labor costs in line with Detroit rivals Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors, both of which won concessions from the union as they headed into bankruptcy protection earlier this year. Under pattern bargaining, the three automakers usually match pay, benefits and other contract provisions.

But workers weren't convinced they should make more concessions, since Ford avoided bankruptcy and is considered healthier than its rivals.

Rocky Comito, president of UAW Local 862 in Louisville, said Friday that workers also felt they were being asked to sacrifice more than the company's executives. Ford CEO Alan Mulally made $17.7 million last year, although that was down 22 percent from the year before.

"Some want to see management give more at the upper level," Comito said.

Ford was offering workers a $1,000 bonus if they ratified the contract. But the contract also would have frozen entry-level pay and changed some work rules.

Speaking at a community event in Detroit on Friday, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said there wouldn't be a revote if the contract changes failed.

"If it fails, there would be no reason to go back to the bargaining table," Gettelfinger said. "We have a democratic process in place. People have a right to express themselves. We recognize there's a lot of misinformation about it out there, but that is what it is."

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