Ford reportedly has reached a tentative deal with the United Auto Workers union to contain healthcare costs for more than half a million US workers, retirees and their families.

The framework of the Ford deal is the same as that reached in October between the UAW and General Motors, according to FT.com, citing one person close to the talks.

But the report noted that some details differ, reflecting the lower proportion of retirees to active workers at Ford. The UAW will disclose further details after a meeting of union leaders at Ford plants, tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, FT.com added.

The report said that Ford CEO Bill Ford has said that healthcare costs exceed the cost of steel in each vehicle produced by his company, which expects to spend US$3.5bn on healthcare benefits this year, up from $3bn in 2004. It reported a $1.2bn pre-tax loss from north American operations in the third quarter.

UAW leaders reportedly said over the weekend that the deal with Ford "asks every UAW member, active and retired, to make sacrifices so that everyone can continue to receive excellent health care coverage".

UAW talks with Chrysler are expected to begin soon.

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