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Last Updated: Monday, 5 November 2007, 22:30 GMT
Car union looks to seal Ford deal
Jaguar workers looking at the new XK model
Ford is looking to sell its Jaguar brand to streamline operations
United Auto Workers (UAW) president Ron Gettelfinger says he hopes to wrap up a ratification vote on a proposed four year deal with Ford by next Monday.

He was speaking after union local officials unanimously backed the tentative deal.

And he also said he did not expect Ford to announce any further job cuts in the wake of the contract.

The talks have been focused on health pay, health care for retired workers, and new contracts.

It seals an historic round of talks between the main US auto industry's union and three US car giants.

UAW officials also recently approved deals with General Motors and Chrysler, which will form the basis of new four-year labour contracts with the major Detroit employers.

Union members at both companies staged walkouts in protest against company proposals to radically reform workers' benefits, such as pension and healthcare, before the UAW was satisfied with the terms of a deal.

In contrast, there has been no industrial action at Ford.

Under pressure

Ford reported a record loss of $12.7bn last year and said this month that plans for the sale of its Jaguar and Land Rover brands were imminent as it steps up efforts to return to long-term profitability.

It had previously said that negotiations would be based on the framework of a hard-won UAW officials reached with rival Detroit-based carmaker General Motors.

This centred around shifting healthcare benefits to an independent fund, known as a Voluntary Employee Benefit Association, for retired workers and scaling back plant closures in the US to stem job losses.

Ford had also emphasised the need to trim the $70 an hour it paid its workers in wage and benefits to a figure closer to that of Toyota's North American operations, while union officials said its goals were "to win new investment, to enhance job security and protect seniority"

Inevitable job cuts

It is thought the terms of the deal could pave the way for Ford to shed between 8,000 and 10,000 factory jobs, though no firm details were available.

This could prove contentious with workers, especially considering 27,000 union jobs had already been eliminated through voluntary redundancies and early retirement offers as of June.

The US car market has been tough for all players, but particularly for Detroit's three major car manufacturers.

They have been squeezed by rising costs and a shift away from gas-guzzling trucks and sports utility vehicles that have traditionally been the mainstay of these firms.

SEE ALSO
GM union approves health contract
29 Sep 07 |  Business
UAW ends General Motors walkout
26 Sep 07 |  Business
Deadline looms in GM union talks
24 Sep 07 |  Business
GM bucks US car sales slump trend
04 Sep 07 |  Business

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