UAW turns to Ford as Chrysler talks stall

Wed Sep 21, 2011 10:47pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall and David Bailey

DETROIT (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers has turned its focus in contract negotiations to Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote), an abrupt shift in negotiating strategy after talks stalled with Chrysler.

The move by the union to turn to Ford, the only American automaker to have avoided bankruptcy, came just after the UAW announced that it had agreed to extend its current contract with Chrysler to October 19.

UAW local officials were told by representatives of the union's bargaining team that Ford had become the next focus for the UAW, which reached a tentative contract with General Motors (GM.N: Quote) last week.

The UAW later issued a statement confirming the move. Jimmy Settles, the union official leading negotiations with Ford, told workers in an email the bargaining team had "already been working hard" to reach agreement with Ford on details of a proposed contract.

"We waited for our turn," said Settles, who had lobbied for Ford to take the lead in contract negotiations earlier in the talks. "The time is here."

In a statement, Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said: "We look forward to working with the UAW on a new tentative agreement that is fair to our employees and allows Ford to become more competitive."

Until last week, the UAW had planned to negotiate near concurrent deals with GM and Chrysler before turning to Ford. Both GM and Chrysler were bailed out by the U.S. government and workers at both companies are barred from striking until 2015.

But negotiations with Chrysler became strained last week when the company's chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, scolded UAW president Bob King for failing to meet a commitment to reach a new four-year contract by the expiration of the former pact on September 14.   Continued...

<p>The United Auto Workers union logo is seen on the front of the UAW Solidarity House in Detroit, Michigan, September 8, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>