U.S. factory workers at Ford Motor Co overwhelmingly rejected proposed concessions it has said it needs to stay competitive, while union workers in Canada on Sunday accepted cuts aimed at retaining jobs.
The Canadian Auto Workers union voted 83 percent in favor of an agreement that freezes wages for some 7,000 workers into September 2012 in exchange for protecting most factory jobs in Canada.
The CAW had announced the tentative pact with Ford on Friday and set a whirlwind weekend vote.
Ford continues to make progress on its transformation plan and our efforts to be competitive when it comes to labor costs are key to continuing to build a healthy, sustainable business in Canada for all our employees, Ford said in a statement.
The win for Ford in Canada, which accounts for a little over 10 percent of its North American output, comes as its main union, the United Auto Workers, prepares to announce a stunning defeat for a similar proposal in the automaker's home market.
A UAW vote in the United States has dragged on for two weeks to steadily building opposition from rank-and-file workers who have objected to giving Ford the same concessions already granted to rivals General Motors Co and Chrysler as part of their government-financed bankruptcies.
An official tally was not yet available on Sunday, but UAW members voted against the concessionary deal at most of Ford's U.S. assembly plants leaving no doubt about the outcome.
The UAW represents about 41,000 U.S. factory workers at Ford and ratification of the proposed changes required the support of a majority of votes cast.
The UAW plans to release the results formally on Monday and President Ron Gettelfinger told reporters on Friday that he had no plans to seek a revote on the deal or more talks with Ford before 2011. The current four-year deal expires in 2011.
The margin of defeat was substantial at some of Ford's biggest assembly plants. Overall, seven of the 10 listed assembly plants voted down the contract, many overwhelmingly.
Workers in Kansas City, Missouri, where Ford builds the F-150 pickup truck and Escape SUV, voted 92 percent against the deal, while those at a truck plant near the automaker's headquarters voted 93 percent to reject it.
At a local that represents two Kentucky assembly plants the vote was 84 percent against approving the tentative agreement that Ford and the UAW announced in mid October.
The tentative UAW agreement included a no-strike provision on wages and benefits for the next negotiations in 2011 that became a lightning rod for opposition.
Workers also objected to a blurring of job classifications for skilled workers that would increase Ford's flexibility and reduce its costs, and to allowing Ford to increase hiring of entry level workers at $14 per hour for a period.
The UAW and Ford agreed on other cuts earlier in 2009 that the automaker believes will save it $500 million per year.
Ford's deal with the Canadian union is the second cost-cutting agreement between the two sides in 18 months and includes cuts in benefits, a reduction in vacation and breaktimes and higher healthcare costs for workers.
No one should mistake workers' approval as satisfaction with the new agreement, CAW President Ken Lewenza said in a statement. The problems faced by the industry cannot be resolved at the bargaining table.
Ford, the only large U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy in 2009, posted losses totaling $30 billion from 2006 through 2008 and remains saddled with a much heavier debt load than GM or Chrysler following their bankruptcy reorganizations.
Still, Ford has been seen as in much better shape than its U.S. rivals in its finances and product lineup. Ford has cut thousands of salaried and hourly workers in restructuring over the past four years, but maintained its product cycle.
Analysts on average expect Ford to report a narrower loss in the third quarter from its continuing operations that exclude one-time items.
(Reporting by David Bailey and Kevin Krolicki)