Ford workers reject givebacks

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By late yesterday it was clear Ford workers have overwhelmingly rejected contractual givebacks that their union had negotiated with the company.

General Baker, a member of the United Auto Workers, Local 600, which represents workers at Ford’s Rouge plant in Michigan, told the World that “people just wouldn’t accept that they should make all the sacrifices while the top executives don’t give up a dime.”

Ford CEO Alan Mulally made $17.7 million last year.

“The workers were so angry, they wouldn’t even accept the usual sop that’s thrown into a concessionary contract, a one-time $1,000 bonus payable in March,” Baker said. “And now that everyone has heard about the big profits Ford is making, you can forget about any chance that this contract will ever be renegotiated.”

Ford waited until the contract voting was almost totally completed yesterday to announce that it had earned $1 billion in profits last quarter. “It knocks out their argument that they’ve been at a competitive disadvantage with GM and Chrysler,” Baker said.

The UAW and Ford agreed to the contract changes last month, but Ford workers needed to ratify them. Ford has 41,000 UAW-represented workers.

The fate of the contract was actually clear already last Friday when two large locals in Kentucky and Ford’s home city of Dearborn, Mich., rejected it overwhelmingly. Those two locals represent over 13,000 workers.

Ignoring the fact that it was raking in a huge profit, Ford sought the deal anyway, saying it had not received additional concessions given to Chrysler and General Motors. Those companies won extra concessions from the union as they headed into bankruptcy.

Ricky Comito, president of UAW Local 862 in Louisville, Ky., said, “Workers are being asked to sacrifice what they feel is a lot more than the people who run the company are sacrificing. They want to see management giving a little more at the upper levels.”

Ford tried to get workers to accept frozen entry-level pay and severe limits on the right to strike, in exchange for the $1,000 bonuses.

The no votes came even as Canadian Ford workers went along with the concessions negotiated by the company and the union.

“That is why, although this is a victory for the workers, I’m not starting a full celebration yet,” said Baker. “We will have to fight hard if the company decides now that it will send work slated for U.S. plants to Canadian plants instead because workers there approved the contract changes.”

In a statement, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Bob King, chief of the union's Ford unit, said that the union plans to abide by the decision of the workers and that no attempt will be made to change the contract until it expires, in 2011. The statement cited the third-quarter profit announcement as “evidence of the contributions that Ford workers have made.”

Photo: AP

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