United Auto Workers Reaches Deal With Ford; GM Workers Say Yes With Asterisk

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
November 7, 2015 Updated: November 7, 2015

DETROIT—The United Auto Workers union reached a tentative contract agreement with Ford on Friday, the same day that General Motors workers voted in favor of a similar four-year deal.

But official ratification of the GM pact was delayed because although it was approved overall, skilled trades workers such as electricians and pipe fitters rejected the deal.

The UAW said it reached an agreement with Ford on Friday morning. The contract covers 53,000 workers at 22 U.S. plants.

No details were released, but Ford’s agreement is expected to be similar to the contract with GM.

The union said Friday night that 55.4 percent of GM workers overall voted in favor of the deal, including 58 percent of production workers. But almost 60 percent of skilled trades workers voted no.

Union leaders must now hold meetings with trades workers over the next several days to find out why they rejected the deal. The union Executive Board will meet to determine the next step, the UAW said in a statement.

The rejection by skilled trades workers could lead to changes in provisions specifically aimed at those workers. But it cannot change parts of the agreement that are “common to all members,” the union statement said.

Like a previous contract ratified by Fiat Chrysler workers, GM’s agreement would eliminate a two-tier wage system over eight years. The agreement also promises bonuses, profit-sharing payments and the first raises for top-tier workers in a decade.

Ford plant leaders will meet Monday in Detroit to discuss the agreement. If they approve it, details will be released to members, who would then vote on it.

“The agreement, if ratified, will help lead the Ford Motor Company, our employees and our communities into the future,” Ford’s global labor chief, John Fleming, said in a statement.

Fiat Chrysler workers rejected their first contract agreement in early October, but ratified a sweetened deal late last month with a vote of 77 percent in favor. GM and the UAW reached their own agreement just before a strike deadline on Oct. 25.

At GM, voting was fairly close early this week, but workers at two large factories approved it Friday.

The pact would cover 52,600 GM workers at 63 U.S. facilities.

UAW President Dennis Williams had promised—and won—richer benefits from GM, which is a bigger and wealthier company than Fiat Chrysler. GM reported last month that it earned $1.36 billion in the third quarter.

The union was also seeking a richer contract from Ford, which earned $1.9 billion in the third quarter, including a record $2.7 billion pretax profit in North America.

GM currently pays recent hires around $15.78 per hour. Under the new agreement, workers with four or more years of experience will make the top $29 hourly wage within four years; workers with less experience would make between $22.50 and $28 in four years and top wages in eight years.

Williams said lower-tier workers—who make up 20 percent of GM’s hourly workforce—will now be eligible for traditional health care benefits. Both tiers of workers would get an $8,000 signing bonus if they ratify the contract, higher than the $3,000 and $4,000 bonuses offered at Fiat Chrysler. And the profit-sharing formula in GM’s proposed agreement promises $1,000 per $1 billion of GM’s North American profits. Fiat Chrysler is giving workers $800 based on percentage gains in its North American margins.

GM’s proposed contract also offers $60,000 for up to 4,000 eligible employees who agree to retire next spring.