Ford and the United Auto Workers union last night confirmed that their new four-year national labour agreement, tentatively reached on 3 November, had been ratified by Ford's UAW-represented employees.

The final agreement covers approximately 54,000 employees in the United States.

The UAW said production workers voted 81% in favour of the four-year pact while 71% of skilled-trades workers said yes. Overall, 79% of UAW Ford members voted in favour of the contract.

"Our bargaining team negotiated a contract that protects wages, benefits and seniority for our active members and provides income and health care security for our retired members," UAW president Ron Gettelfinger said in a statement.

"We stood our ground in the face of some rather big asks by the company and came away with a creative agreement that addresses the concerns of our members, and also gives the company the opportunity to move forward.

"Now it's up to Ford to successfully bring to market the top-quality vehicles our members are building in UAW Ford factories."

"We obtained solid commitments from the company to keep plants open and to invest in UAW members and union-made products here in the United States," added UAW vice president Bob King, who heads the union's national Ford Department. "That means job security for our members, which was a top priority for us."

The new contract covers about 54,000 active workers at Ford and more than 94,000 Ford retirees and 28,000 surviving spouses, according to the UAW. It will expire on 14 September, 2011.

"We are pleased that our employees have voted to accept and finalise our new collective bargaining agreement," said Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally in a statement.

"This agreement is proof that by working together with our UAW partners, it is possible to find solutions that collectively benefit our employees, retirees and the company.  This contract will provide significant opportunities for the company's long-term competitiveness, and that is good for all of us."

Ford was expected to announce more details of the deal on Thursday.

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