According to FT.com, the Financial Times’ website, Ford and its former parts making unit Visteon were on Sunday night awaiting ratification by the companies’ unionised workers of a new, four-year labour contract.

Approval would mark the second approval by employees of the “big three” Detroit carmakers since Friday, when the United Autoworkers union said its members had approved a new contract with DaimlerChrysler, FT.com said.

The report added that General Motors and its former parts subsidiary Delphi will be the last group to achieve ratification, although it was not clear when this might be possible.

FT.com said the developments are the culmination of months of talks between the UAW and the three carmakers and Visteon and Delphi, both of which were spun off from their parents three years ago.

Broadly, FT.com noted, the outcome of the negotiations has been that the car makers have persuaded the UAW to accept plant closures and job losses that the car makers say are needed as part of efforts to cut costs and improve profitability.

But the unions have largely managed to defend the size and scope of their generous healthcare and pension packages, as well as those for legions of retirees, FT.com added.

The report said the roughly 65,000 DaimlerChrysler employees covered in the contract ratified last week will receive a $US3,000 up-front signing bonus; a performance bonus in the second year of the contract; a 2% raise in the third year of the contract, and a 3% raise in the fourth year.

FT.com said employees will now contribute $10 towards the cost of branded prescription drugs, double the previous amount, but car makers say that increasing such “co-pays” will have only a modest effect on the overall healthcare burden while employer insurance premiums remain high and workers increase their use of more expensive branded drugs, rather than cheaper generic drugs.

Once union members have ratified the Visteon and Delphi contracts, the companies will then have to negotiate a “supplementary” contract setting out the benefits that any new employees will receive, FT.com added.