UAW leaders move forward with Ford contract as GM talks continue

DETROIT (Reuters) – United Auto Workers President Sean Fine is meeting Sunday afternoon with local union leaders from Ford (FN) to begin the process of ratifying a new contract, while bargaining continues at General Motors (GM.N) after a setback Saturday.

On Saturday, Fine ordered a walkout at GM’s engine and assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, criticizing management’s “unnecessary and irresponsible refusal to reach a fair agreement.”

It’s not clear what has held up GM and the UAW’s progress toward an agreement similar to previous deals at Ford and Chrysler owner Stellantis, but the sources said one of the main issues is pension costs for retirees. Those deals delivered a record 25% jump in worker wages over the four-and-a-half-year contract and allowed automakers to restart profitable truck assembly lines.

The Ford UAW deal includes a $5,000 endorsement bonus, special retirement incentive packages, and gives newly hired temporary workers a faster path to full-time status and the highest union pay rate, according to a brief document seen by Reuters. Workers also receive a $1,500 voucher for a car and larger company contributions for retirement benefits.

Current temporary workers at Ford immediately become permanent employees on track for top pay within three years, and the deal creates a path for workers at joint ventures, battery plants and Ford’s BlueOval electric vehicle complex in Tennessee to join the union and be covered under the the job. Sources told Reuters that the main contract.

Shares of General Motors and Ford have fallen by about a fifth since the start of the strike on September 15. Stellantis shares fell just 1%.

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The GM said it was disappointed by the UAW’s decision to strike Spring Hill.

Spring Hill’s withdrawal could hamper production of GM’s large pickups as well as assembly of other popular GM vehicles. The ripple effects from an extended Spring Hill strike could raise the costs of the gridlock for GM beyond the $400 million per week the company announced last week.

“All my friends hate companies that won’t agree to fair contracts for their workers,” UAW consultant Benjamin Dector posted Sunday morning on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter. He later deleted the post.

GM is now the only Detroit automaker without a deal. Stellantis reached an agreement with the UAW on Saturday and Ford on Wednesday.

United Auto Workers President Sean Fine joins striking UAW members, on the picket line at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, US, September 15, 2023. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook Obtaining licensing rights

Progress toward resolving the disputes between the UAW and GM may slow Sunday because Fain is scheduled to attend meetings with local Ford officials in the Detroit suburb of Taylor, Michigan, and provide a video update on the Ford deal at 7 p.m. ET (2300 GMT). .

Union leaders will then head to regional meetings to explain the deals to members, who will then vote to approve them.

UAW leaders could no longer take ratification votes for granted. Last month, UAW workers at Mack Truck’s U.S. operations overwhelmingly rejected the deal recommended by Fain, while Mack said Thursday that there were no new talks scheduled. In 2015, UAW members in what is now Stellantis voted against a contract approved by union leadership.

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Local union leaders at Stellantis plants will come to Detroit on Nov. 2 before the agreement is sent to members for ratification, Fine said Saturday.

Large check book

Fain has been particularly tough on Ford during contract negotiations, even though the automaker has established a cooperative relationship with the UAW in the past.

At one point, he told Ford CEO Jim Farley to “go get the big checkbook,” declaring that “the days of the UAW and Ford teaming up to fight other companies are over.”

In addition to the general wage increase, Fine said Ford’s lowest-paid temporary workers will enjoy raises of more than 150% over the life of the contract and employees will reach top pay after three years. The union also gained the right to strike over future plant closures.

The UAW also successfully eliminated low pay levels for workers in certain Ford parts operations — an issue Fain highlighted from the beginning of the negotiation process.

The Ford contract would reverse concessions the union has agreed to in a series of contracts since 2007, when GM and the former Chrysler company were sliding toward bankruptcy and Ford was mortgaging assets to stay afloat.

“We asked Ford to step up and they did,” Fine said in a video last week.

(Reporting by Joe White in Detroit and David Shepardson in Washington; Reporting by Mohammed for the Arabic Bulletin; Preparing by Mohammed for the Arabic Bulletin) Writing by Sayantani Ghosh. Editing by Lisa Shoemaker and Debba Babington

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Joe White is a global auto correspondent for Reuters, based in Detroit. Joe covers a wide range of automotive and transportation industry topics, and also writes The Auto File, a thrice-weekly newsletter about the global auto industry. Joe joined Reuters in January 2015 as transport editor leading coverage of planes, trains and autos, later becoming global motors editor. Previously, he served as global auto editor for The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw auto industry coverage and managed the Detroit bureau. Joe is co-author (with Paul Ingrassia) of The Comeback: The Fall and Rise of the American Auto Industry, and he and Paul shared the Pulitzer Prize for superior reporting in 1993.

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