Workers at three United Auto Workers Union-represented Johnson Controls (JCI) plants unanimously ratified first contract agreements at meetings held on Friday, according to a UAW statement.

The new four-year contracts include a $US1,500 signing bonus, wage increases of $3 per hour and up, company-paid health care, including dental and vision care; the opportunity to participate in a company-matched 401(k) plan and company-paid life insurance.

The UAW added that Johnson Controls also agreed to follow the holiday schedule observed by their customer plants (for workers making GM, Ford or DaimlerChrysler parts, this reportedly includes the Election Day the UAW is trying to make a national paid holiday).

Each worker will also have their birthday as a paid holiday; substantial pensions are established for the first time; the company has agreed to create a supplemental unemployment benefit (SUB) plan that provides 90% of the employee’s after-tax pay for up to 26 weeks in the event of a layoff; and a tuition assistance plan has been established for the first time.

The UAW statement said that each of the three contracts prohibits the closing of the plant covered by the agreement while “health and safety language” in the agreements provides for expedited arbitration for health and safety issues.

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The contract also contains numerous other provisions concerning seniority rights, union representation and grievance procedures, the statement added.

“This contract represents richly-deserved dramatic rewards for workers who never gave up their fight for dignity and economic fairness at the their workplace.  It also establishes a solid foundation from which we will work with JCI to better serve their customers,” said UAW regional director Jim Wells, whose region the three JCI plants.

Co-ordinated strikes and picket action by about 700 workers last week stopped component production which in turn halted vehicle assembly by 13,000 General Motors workers in Louisiana and Oklahoma and Chrysler staff at Ohio and Missouri factories.

Officials at both companies told The Car Connection (TCC) website that the brief stoppage had no impact on consumers was estimated to have cost DaimlerChrysler alone as much as $30 million, by stopping production of such key models as the Jeep Liberty, Dodge Ram pickup and Chrysler and Dodge minivans.

DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman Shawn Morgan told TCC that DC would make up production later this summer. “We don’t consider any of the units lost,” she reportedly said.

TCC said the key to ending the dispute was a separate agreement under which Johnson Controls will agree to recognise the UAW as bargaining agent for workers employed at the company’s plant in Northwood, Ohio near Toledo, based on a card check rather than a representation election supervised by the National Labour Relations Board.

New UAW president Ron Gettelfinger told TCC that 85% of workers at the Ohio plant already have signed cards asking for UAW recognition and recognition should come fairly swiftly.