DETROIT - Ford Motor Co sees no near-term North American labor cost disadvantage with rivals General Motors Co and Chrysler Group LLC, but is in talks with its unions to address longer-term concerns, its global labor chief said on Thursday.
Ford is also talking with the United Auto Workers in the United States and the Canadian Auto Workers to address differences in its labor agreements and those reached by unions with GM and Chrysler earlier this year.
The only large U.S. automaker not to restructure under a U.S. government-supported bankruptcy this year, Ford has reduced its U.S. hourly workforce by 40,000 workers via buyouts over the last three years.
Ford had about 41,000 U.S. hourly workers at the end of July, down from about 100,000 in 2000.
The UAW and Ford had reached contract modifications in February to cut costs by about $500 million per year, before the union sealed agreements that afforded additional flexibility for GM and Chrysler.
It is very important to note that the vast majority of contract changes that took place at GM and Chrysler were basically patterned off what we did in February, Ford global manufacturing chief Joe Hinrichs said.
In the near term there is no cost disadvantage or competitive disadvantage to us versus GM and Chrysler, economic or otherwise, Hinrichs said at a Credit Suisse automotive and transportation conference that was webcast.
However, there are items we are working on and discussing with the UAW that are key areas for what we believe in our current agreement differ from GM and Chrysler in areas that could affect us longer term, he added.
Hinrichs declined to discuss the details of the areas that are of most interest to Ford. However, analysts have said that one crucial difference is a no-strike provision included in the GM and Chrysler agreements with the UAW.
Ford opened discussions with the CAW on Tuesday. (Reporting by David Bailey; editing by Gunna Dickson)