DETROIT, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Union workers at Ford Motor Co. have given a thumbs-up to a four-year labor agreement, the United Auto Workers said Wednesday.
The union said 63 percent of production workers and 65 percent of skilled-trades workers voted in favor of the pact, which covers 41,000 hourly Ford employees, the Detroit Free Press reported.
"I am pleased with the strong support for this agreement from UAW Ford members," UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles said in a statement. "I believe UAW Ford workers understood the importance of each and every vote."
With Ford and General Motors Co. having settled with their workers, Chrysler is the only one of the United States' Big Three automakers still without a ratified deal with its union workforce. Chrysler workers began voting Tuesday on a tentative agreement.
Ford hailed the outcome of the vote.
"This agreement is proof that, by working together with our UAW partners and local communities, we can significantly create new jobs, invest in our plants and people, and make a very positive impact on the U.S. economy," Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, said in a statement. "Our agreement is fair to our employees and it improves our competitiveness in the U.S."
The Free Press said Ford expects to add nearly 12,000 U.S. jobs as it reaps the benefit of lower labor costs over the next four years.
Under the deal, newly hired, entry-level workers will make $19.28 per hour, while workers hired prior to September 2007 will hold steady at $28 per hour over the duration of the contract.
One result is expected to be a speedy upgrade of Ford's credit rating, the newspaper said.
Ford lost its investment-grade rating in 2005. General Motors' rating with Standard & Poor's was raised to BB-plus, just below investment grade, when its contract was ratified last month, and the rating agency had said it would do the same for Ford if the company was able to get a contract that did not put it at a competitive disadvantage.
Harley Shaiken, who teaches labor studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said Ford will find it "significantly less costly to invest money" if it can regain its investment-grade rating.
"That's the hidden dimension here," he said.
Paul Vella, an employee at the transmission plant in Livonia, Mich., said about 77 percent there voted for ratification because more jobs will be moved there.
"The economy's bad, and I'm just happy to have a job," he said.
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