DEARBORN, Mich. — United Auto Workers President Owen Bieber said Sunday that time is running out as talks aimed at reaching a new national labor contract for its 104,000 hourly workers at Ford Motor Co. neared tonight's midnight deadline.
Bieber, who looked a little weary after some late-night bargaining sessions, said job security still is considered the major sticking point in the talks.
"Our patience is obviously wearing thin as the clock ticks away," Bieber told reporters at a Sunday afternoon news conference before heading to a UAW meeting where he was to brief the union's 23-member executive board on the progress of the talks.
"Ford has known clearly where they have to move for us to be able to reach an agreement by the deadline," he said.
"Job security has indeed been the main area that we've been (wrestling) with, and our differences there are still very serious," Bieber said. "The job guarantees that we're talking about would only be a burden to Ford on the assumption that Ford plans to take a lot of work out of its U.S. plants. And that's exactly what we intend to stop."
Bieber also said that with about a full day of bargaining left, the talks could simply run out of time. However, he said the union still was hoping to meet the deadline.
UAW spokesman Karl Mantyla said virtually all locals at Ford plants have completed preparations for a strike. "It is a standard part of the preparations," Mantyla said.
The UAW has a strike fund of nearly $700 million, which could enable it to survive a walkout of more than a year.
"The negotiations are proceeding and a number of less contentious issues have been resolved," Ford chief bargainer Stanley J. Surma said. But, he said, "We still have a long way to go before the settlement."
Negotiators met late Saturday and resumed about 8 a.m. Sunday, a UAW spokesman said.
The union has ordered its 200-member Ford National Committee to be ready for a meeting Friday.
The planned meetings could indicate the two sides are near a settlement, since any tentative agreement must be approved by the board and committee before being ratified by Ford's hourly workers.
"It seems to be more of a positive sign," said industry analyst Thomas O'Grady, of Integrated Automotive Resources Inc. in suburban Philadelphia.