Bankrupt Lear Corp has said it has reached a tentative contract agreement with more than 700 workers represented by the UAW. The two sides have been in an acrimonious dispute.

The new contract covers hourly workers at Lear's facilities in Arlington, Texas, and Wentzville, Missouri, which supply seating components for General Motors' large SUVs and full-size vans.

The GM vehicles include the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Ukon, Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Suburban and full-size vans such as GMC Savannah and Chevrolet Express.

The company and the UAW have been in heated contract talks at the plant. Earlier this week the company said it sent workers home after a week of slow production that left Lear far short of the 180 seat sets per shift it was contractually obligated to provide to GM for sport utility vehicles assembled seven miles away.

A union official told the WSJ the slowdown was the result of new robots at the factory that malfunctioned, health and safety issues and parts and materials shortages. Workers were protesting outside the plant on Monday, alleging they had been locked out.

Lear said the union workers were "disrupting" production and that its salaried employees had been able to return production to normal levels.

The WSJ noted that Lear, now in the midst of Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganisation, was trying to get the UAW to cut its total hourly wage and benefit rate to US$35 from $43. The two sides reached an impasse in June when workers rejected the cuts.

Lear filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on July 7.