The UAW and Chrysler have received a big boost from Detroit area plants that have voted in favour of the tentative labour contract.

AP reported that much is now riding on votes set for Friday and Saturday in Belvidere, Ill., where 3,815 Chrysler hourly workers are employed at an assembly plant and a metal stamping plant. Belvidere is the last major complex where workers will be voting.

The report said that Chrysler and the UAW head to Belvidere with some key victories in their pocket after a string of earlier losses. On Wednesday, workers at four key Detroit-area UAW locals voted in favour of the tentative contract, including one local whose president had been an outspoken critic of the agreement. Those locals represented more than 8,600 workers, or roughly one out of every five who would be covered by the historic four-year pact.

Workers at Local 1700 approved the contract by just over 65 percent, President Bill Parker said, despite Parker's vocal opposition. Parker didn't say how many workers had voted. Local 1700 represents 2,500 workers who make the Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger midsize cars at the Sterling Heights assembly plant.

Margins of victory were higher at the other three Detroit-area locals. Workers at Local 869, which represents just under 1,500 employees at the Warren stamping plant, voted 75 percent in favour, said Da Juan Tolbert, the local's recording secretary. Seventy-eight percent approved the tentative agreement at Local 140, which represents 2,600 workers at the Warren Truck Assembly plant, President Melvin Thompson said. And 82 percent of production workers at Local 1264 approved the agreement, President Bob Struglin said. Local 1264 represents 2,000 workers at a Sterling Heights metal stamping plant.

The tentative agreement must be ratified by a majority of the UAW's 40,000 members to go into effect.

AP added that Bill Parker opposed the contract because it lowers wages for many new hires to around US$14 per hour. Chrysler assembly workers now make about US$28.75 per hour, according to the company. Parker also said the contract makes fewer guarantees for new products than GM promised workers in its contract.