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Ford, UAW Talks Continue Past Deadline

September 15, 1996|DONALD W. NAUSS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DEARBORN, Mich. — Bargainers for the United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Co. failed Saturday night to reach an agreement on a new contract but continued negotiating past the midnight deadline.

Both sides remained confident that a deal could be worked out without a work stoppage.

"Talks are continuing actively between the negotiating teams," Ford spokesman Jon Harmon said late Saturday. "Important issues remain unresolved, but the tone of the discussion remains constructive."

Negotiations bogged down over economic and job security issues, a source close to the talks said. Particularly nettlesome is the union's demand that the auto makers curtail shipping work out to nonunion suppliers.

The UAW chose Ford as the lead bargainer for the triennial contract talks in hopes of forging a quick, precedent-setting agreement. The Ford contract, which totals more than 1,200 pages, will provide the framework for talks with Chrysler Corp. and General Motors Corp.

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It had been expected that the two sides would reach an agreement before the expiration of the current contract, as the tone of this year's talks were unusually civil.

Despite the delay in reaching an agreement, it is still considered unlikely that the UAW would order its 104,000 Ford members to strike. In 1993 and 1987, negotiations continued past the deadline without work disruptions.

"Nobody wants a strike," said Maryann Keller, analyst for Furman Selz, a New York brokerage.

Union and company officials said they had reached agreement on numerous issues but were still haggling over contract language involving wages, benefits and employment levels.

Before talks began in June, UAW President Stephen Yokich said job security was the union's most important concern. He is pushing for long-term employment guarantees for the UAW's 400,000 auto workers and curbs on outsourcing, the practice of farming out work to nonunion contractors.

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Ford said it would agree to minimum employment levels in exchange for lower wages for new employees and a longer period to bring their wages to scale. Currently, new workers are paid 70% of what veteran workers earn and reach parity in three years.

The UAW also wants the power to strike over outsourcing and wants a greater opportunity to match quality and cost targets on jobs before they are outsourced.

The union also is seeking raises of up to 3% a year for the next three years. The prior contract provided for a 3% increase the first year and two 3% bonuses the final two years.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Auto Workers are threatening to strike Chrysler at midnight Tuesday. The UAW would be unlikely to begin talks with Chrysler until it reaches a contract settlement with the Canadian auto workers.

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