A proposed strike at the Ford stamping plant in Chicago over health and safety conditions that had been set to begin last Saturday has been delayed for two weeks, a United Auto Workers union official said, according to Reuters.

"There has been a two-week extension on the strike deadline," UAW Local [branch] 588 president Bill Jackson reportedly told union members in a recorded message on the office telephone. "For the members calling please report to work as scheduled."

Reuters said the union had set the deadline for strike action at the plant, about 30 miles south of Chicago, at midnight Friday.

Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari declined to comment to the news agency. "It's our policy not to talk about union-management matters," she said.

Reuters noted that details of the dispute and negotiations have been kept under wraps by tight-lipped union and Ford officials.

The plant, which employs 1,450 hourly workers and 170 salaried personnel, reportedly is key to the launch of Ford's new vehicle line-up, including a large car called the Five Hundred. The new flagship sedan is seen as vital to Ford's efforts to improve its automotive profits.

The Chicago stamping plant makes body panels for the Five Hundred, Freestyle wagon and the Mercury Montego sedan, which are assembled at Ford's Chicago assembly plant, Reuters said, adding that the stamping plant also makes various components for the automaker's Ranger compact pickup truck, F-series Super Duty truck, Taurus and Sable cars.

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