DETROIT (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers’ tentative contract with Ford Motor Co looked assured of ratification on Sunday night after receiving overwhelming support at two major union locals, UAW officials said.
An astounding 90 percent vote in favor of the new pact at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri plant on Sunday night pushed the overall vote in favor of the new deal to 62 percent.
With more than two-thirds of the votes cast, “yes” votes on the new contract total 14,845 with 9,076 against ratification, according to a union online posting.
“I’m feeling very optimistic that this agreement will be ratified by UAW Ford members,” said Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president in charge of Ford relations, in a statement e-mailed on Sunday night.
After returns last week ran against the contract at three large Ford plants, the tide has been reversed, in part by intense lobbying by UAW leaders who told workers it was the best deal possible in difficult economic times, local plant officials said.
“The Ford workers voting early on in the process were voting on emotion, but workers in plants with voting later in the process had a chance to learn everything about the agreement and understood how much their votes counted,” said Settles.
“The Kansas City vote is an example of the local union taking the message to the shop floor and educating the members on the contract,” he said.
The biggest local union — UAW Local 600 based in Dearborn, Michigan, where Ford is also headquartered — voted 3,255 to 2,027, or about 62 percent, in favor of the new four-year contract, another online posting by the UAW Ford Department showed.
Local 600, which includes workers at the Dearborn Truck Plant where the company’s successful F-Series pickup truck is made, accounts for about 14 percent of all of Ford’s unionized workers.
Workers at several plants said they were frightened by the prospect of going out on a strike if the contract failed to pass. Local plant officials have been making strike preparations in case the contract passage failed.
Scott Houldieson, a secretary-treasurer of UAW Local 551 where the Chicago Assembly Plant workers voted 77 percent against the contract last week, said the union’s attention should now turn toward achieving a satisfactory settlement of a grievance against Ford.
That grievance, signed by the overwhelming majority of Ford’s 41,000 hourly workers, complains that the U.S. No. 2 automaker gave pay raises to salaried workers but not to hourly employees.
This week, Chrysler Group LLC’s 26,000 UAW-represented workers vote on a proposed contract agreed to last Wednesday by UAW and company negotiators. Chrysler is managed by its majority owner, Italy’s Fiat SpA.
Chrysler’s workers are guaranteed much less, including a signing bonus of $1,750.
Ford workers vote on the proposed pact until Tuesday with full results expected on Wednesday.
Veteran Ford auto plant workers make $28.12 per hour, and will see no increase in base pay. They have not received a base pay raise since 2003. Skilled trades workers make several dollars more per hour.
Wages for new hires, currently about $15.50 per hour at Ford, would rise to $19.28 per hour over the life of the contract.
Most Ford workers are guaranteed bonuses of at least $16,000 over the life of the contract, including a $6,000 signing bonus.
That is more generous than the deal General Motors Co workers ratified by nearly a 2-to-1 count in late September.
GM has about 48,500 unionized workers.