Strike at Ford plants less likely after vote

@CNNMoney October 17, 2011: 12:09 PM ET
The rank-and-file UAW members at Ford Motor are now voting in favor of a tentative labor deal there.

The rank-and-file UAW members at Ford Motor are now voting in favor of a tentative labor deal there.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The possibility of a strike at the nation's No. 2 automaker seems to have been averted over the weekend as the tentative agreement between Ford Motor and the United Auto Workers now appears likely to pass a ratification vote of rank-and-file union members.

Going into the weekend, the risk of a strike was growing.

On Friday, the overall vote was only 47% in favor of the deal after union locals, including those representing employees at some large Ford plants, voted against the deal.

While a rejection of the deal would not have mandated a strike, a work stoppage was one possible outcome of a no vote.

But the locals that voted over the weekend, including Local 600 which represents the largest number of Ford workers in the union, went strongly for the deal.

As of 8:30 p.m. Sunday, 62% of the overall union was in favor of the deal with a total of 24,000 members having cast their vote, according to results posted on the Facebook page of the union's Ford negotiating team.

It's unlikely the remaining locals will be able to scuttle the four-year deal unless they overwhelmingly vote against it, according to Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group at the Center for Automotive Research.

The deal would cover 41,000 Ford members and would give veteran workers larger bonuses than workers at General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) and Chrysler. It also raises the wages for entry-level workers, but veteran workers don't get an increase in their hourly wage level.

The deal includes Ford guarantees to invest an additional $4.8 billion in new products and equipment at U.S. plants. Those promises should add almost 6,000 additional jobs at UAW-represented plants in addition to about 7,000 jobs that the company was already planning on adding.

The voting concludes Tuesday.

Shares of Ford (F, Fortune 500) were higher in early trading but turned lower as they followed broader markets down on Monday.

Dziczek said she had gone into the weekend with serious doubts about the pact's chance for passage.

"I thought this was going to be a nail-biter," she said. But the longer the rank and file members had to consider the deal, she said, the more they realized that it was probably the best deal they were going to get, especially after the union agreed to a less lucrative deal at Chrysler Group last week.

The worsening economic environment added pressure on the union to vote in favor of the deal.

Last week UAW President Bob King was quoted in the Detroit News as saying that a better deal with Ford was unlikely, especially if the economy worsened.

Ford was the only major U.S. automaker not to need a federal bailout and a bankruptcy reorganization in 2009, and it is the most profitable of the Detroit automakers today. To top of page

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