Bloomberg News

UAW Says Ford Will Hire Strike Breakers If Accord Voted Down

October 12, 2011

(Updates with UAW comment in the third paragraph.)

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The United Auto Workers said in a Facebook post that it will seek a strike if members vote against a tentative agreement with Ford Motor Co. and that union leaders expect the automaker would seek replacement workers.

The post today from the UAW Ford Department cites UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, the union’s lead negotiator with the automaker, informing workers a strike would follow a rejection of the contract. Workers at a Ford factory in Wayne, Michigan, rejected the contract in a ratification vote this week.

“Vice President Settles has advised the membership during informational meetings that if the agreement is not ratified, he will ask the International Executive Board to authorize a strike,” the UAW Ford Department post said. “If so, he will then give 72 hour notice to the company that we intend to strike.”

The UAW has not had a national walkout at Ford since 1976. Michele Martin, a spokeswoman for the UAW, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Bob King, the union’s president, said earlier he wasn’t concerned about early voting results at Ford.

“It’s a really good agreement,” King told reporters in Warren, Michigan, today during a news conference about a tentative labor agreement with Chrysler Group LLC. “I think that as people look at it and weigh the different options, they’ll vote for it.”

Ford ‘Optimistic’

The company said it expects the accord to pass.

“We remain optimistic that the tentative agreement will be approved, as it is fair to our employees and improves Ford’s competitiveness,” Karen Hampton, a Ford spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Ford’s 41,000 U.S. hourly workers began voting this week on the tentative agreement reached on Oct. 4. Ratification votes at UAW locals across the U.S. are to conclude Oct. 18.

With 8 percent of the vote complete, 50.2 percent of production workers have voted yes, while 50.6 percent of skilled trades workers have rejected the deal, the UAW Ford Department said today on the Facebook page.

“If this is what the UAW is putting on their website, then it’s clearly authoritative on what they see as the likely result of a no vote,” said Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California at Berkeley. “They’re saying, ‘We did the very best we could and anything more will take the picket line.’”

Lockout Possibility

The post also said the automaker may lock out UAW- represented employees or use replacement workers to keep factories running.

“The company is not obligated to continue bargaining because their position is that they negotiated in good faith and presented an agreement which is more than competitive,” the UAW Ford Department post said. “If we strike, they will use whatever resources necessary to continue operating their plants including the use of scab labor.”

The statement on the Facebook page “will no doubt have an influence on the vote,” Shaiken said. “Workers are not up for a strike; people are apprehensive and fearful of the economy.”

--Editors: Bill Koenig, Jamie Butters

To contact the reporter on this story: Keith Naughton in Southfield, Michigan at knaughton3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net


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