Ford Motor Co (F.N) and the United Auto Workers union have agreed on the broad terms of a new round of buyouts that would slash thousands of jobs under the terms of a new contract, people familiar with the ongoing talks said.
Contract negotiations between Ford and the UAW have been moving slowly after the union extended its previous contract at the No. 2 U.S. automaker so it could focus on wrapping up labor deals with General Motors Corp (GM.N) and Chrysler LLC.
Working-level negotiators from Ford and UAW met on Friday and worked through the weekend, the people said.
But the union leadership, including UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, has remained focused on the final ratification votes on a tentative labor contract with Chrysler LLC after that deal was thrown into jeopardy by surprisingly strong dissent by UAW rank-and-file.
Ford, widely seen as the weakest of the three embattled U.S. automakers, has already made it clear it will push for deeper concessions from the union than those offered General Motors Corp or Chrysler, a position negotiators made clear in early talks, according to two people briefed on the talks.
In addition, Ford has indicated it was looking for about 8,000 to 10,000 additional factory job cuts, one of those briefed on the negotiations said. That would be in addition to the 27,000 UAW jobs Ford had cut as of June.
Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said that tally would be updated when the automaker reports its third quarter financial results. She declined to comment on the contract talks.
An additional 10,000 job cuts would mean Ford would have cut some 45 percent of its factory jobs as part of a turnaround plan in response to a protracted decline in its U.S. sales.
Ford, which lost its No. 2 spot in the U.S. market to Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) this year, has seen its sales slide 13 percent in the first nine months of the year.
Although Ford is widely considered to have the strongest working relationship with the UAW, one analyst said Ford was still unlikely to get deeper concessions than its rivals.
Mark Warnsman, an analyst with Calyon Securities, said the union's difficulty in getting the Chrysler contract ratified would allow the UAW negotiators at Ford to back up their negotiating positions with the specter of a failed membership vote.
That could thwart Ford's bid to score deeper concessions than those the UAW gave GM, he said in a note for clients.
Ford, which posted a record loss of $12.6 billion in 2006, has announced plans to close 16 plants, although it has not named six of those facilities.
Under a deal last year with the UAW, Ford offered buyout packages to all its U.S. workers. Those offers were initially accepted by about 37,000 workers, including some from Automotive Component Holdings subsidiary.
The 2006 buyout packages included payouts of up to $140,000 for some UAW-represented workers.
Bargaining on some of the main issues between Ford and the union has not begun since Gettelfinger has not made an appearance recently at the bargaining table, a second person briefed on the talks said.
Analysts have said talks with Ford could be delayed if the ratification of the UAW's four-year tentative labor contract with Chrysler is rejected by the automaker's workers in a round of voting set to conclude on Friday.
The UAW's earlier deal with General Motors Corp, which set a $14 starting wage for non-production workers and shifts the cost of retiree health care to a union-aligned trust fund, was approved by two-thirds of GM workers.
GM and the UAW have said they are negotiating a round of buyouts targeting the 75 percent of its hourly work force that will be eligible to retire by the end of the new contract in 2011.