A narrow ‘approve’ vote at Ford over the weekend means the latest round of UAW labour talks is complete and new four-year agreements are in place at all three Detroit-based automakers.
The Detroit Free Press reported Ford’s workers only narrowly voted to approve their new agreement late on Friday after a nail-biting process that kept everyone guessing until the final ballots were cast and counted. UAW production members voted 51% in favour; skilled trades were 52% in favour and almost 92% of salaried workers voted yes.
The results came hours after General Motors formally ratified its agreement and months after the arduous negotiating session began to replace the outgoing four-year contracts for all three Detroit automakers which were to expire on 14 September but were extended.
With the new contracts in place, GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles can look forward to four years of labour peace and prosperity as the industry heads to record US sales and healthy profits margins with consumers buying more expensive trucks and crossovers, the Motown paper said.
The positive end to negotiations also allows the three companies to concentrate on carrying out five year product plans involving billions in investment in products and the retooling of plants. Thousands of jobs have also been secured under these plans.
UAW president Dennis Williams said in a statement: “Our UAW members have ratified the national agreement after a long process and much debate. The voice of the majority has secured a strong future that will provide job security and economic stability for themselves and their families.”
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“There is no higher authority than the membership. Through a fair and democratic process UAW-Ford members have delivered job security and strong economic gains for their families and communities,” added UAW Ford vice president Jimmy Settles.
“This agreement provides a good foundation for Ford Motor Company, our employees and our communities as we work together to create an even stronger business in the years ahead,” said Ford’s head of global manufacturing and labour affairs, John Fleming.
The Free Press said the votes of about 8,000 workers at Dearborn plants turned the tide in a nationwide ratification process that was trending toward rejection all last week.
At the Dearborn Truck Plant, where more than 4,300 workers are employed, 74% of production workers voted in favour of the agreement.
Fiat Chrysler, first to the bargaining table, had to negotiate a second agreement after the first was voted down.
GM results reported on 6 November were split with production workers in favour but skilled workers turning their deal down. Under the UAW constitution, the contract could not be ratified until union leaders met with the skilled workers again to determine their issues. That led to further meetings with the company. Finally, on Friday, after a two-week delay, the GM deal was ratified, the paper said.
Ford was the only company to ratify without any delays or need to resume talks, despite bitterness and angst expressed on social media, the Free Press said.
The entire process for all three companies, while contentious and drawn out, was completed without a strike or lockout.
The report said the agreements make inroads in phasing out a lower-paid tier of autoworkers ushered in through earlier agreements. Labour costs are expected to grow with improved health care and other benefits including an additional holiday and legal assistance.
The ratified agreement between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the union is expected to boost the cost per worker per hour to US$56 by 2019 from $47 today. The GM agreement ratified by the UAW on Friday is expected to raise labour costs to $60 from $55 during the same time period. The tentative agreement at Ford is expected to notch the cost up by the smallest margin to $60 in 2019 from $57.