Ford workers ratify new four year US labor pact

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' deceased CEO Sergio Marchionne (R) and United Auto Workers union President Dennis Williams shake hands during a news conference in Detroit, Sept. 15, 2015.
Rebecca Cook | Reuters

Ford Motor's U.S. union workers narrowly approved a four-year labor contract after a late push for support by United Auto Workers leaders, the UAW said late Friday night.

The UAW said 51.3 percent of production workers and 52.4 percent of skilled trades workers voted in favor of the new contract, after more than a week of voting that concluded at U.S. operations of Ford on Friday night.

"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," the company said in a statement.

The UAW's chief Ford negotiator, Jimmy Settles, said the contract was reached "through a fair and democratic process" and that it provides "job security and strong economic gains" for workers.

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Two days ago, Settles reported that with three-quarters of the vote counted, 52 percent of Ford workers had rejected the new contract.

The new contract gives veteran workers their first raise in about a decade and phases out a two-tiered pay structure that paid those hired after 2007 less than more senior union members.

Ford has about 53,000 UAW members.

Now, all three of Detroit's automakers have ratified contracts, four months after talks began between the UAW and Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler have also struck deals.

GM's contract for its 52,700 UAW members will go into effect on Monday. Fiat Chrysler's 40,000 UAW employees have been working under a new agreement since last month.

But it wasn't easy. The UAW targeted Fiat Chrysler first, and an initial agreement was rejected by workers by about 2-to-1. A second proposal that set an eight-year path from hiring to top pay was overwhelmingly approved at Fiat Chrysler, which had the most second-tier workers.

A study released on Friday said GM and Ford per worker labor costs, of which pay is nearly half, will be $60 per hour by 2019, the final year of the new contracts. GM's per hour labor are up $5 and Ford's rose $3.

The same study showed that Fiat Chrysler's per hour labor costs will rise to $56 from $47, by 2019.

The same study also said the share of the labor cost to each vehicle's average cost is much less than it was a decade ago.