The United Auto Workers leadership pushing for ratification of a new four-year labor contract with Ford Motor Co made fresh gains on Saturday with nearly half of the worker vote counted, a union online update showed.

The running tally as of Saturday morning showed 56 percent of workers had cast votes in favor of the new contract which would give most workers a signing bonus of $6,000, and at least $16,000 in bonuses over the life of the pact.

That is up from 54 percent in approval on Friday night and 51 percent in favor on Friday morning.

There are about 41,000 unionized Ford workers. The vote continues at Ford's U.S. plants through Tuesday.

As of Saturday morning with 44 percent of the expected overall vote counted, there were 8,577 yes votes and 6,710 no votes, according to posting by the United Auto Workers Ford Department.

General Motors Co's 48,500 union workers, who have approved their contract already, get $11,500 at a minimum in bonuses, including a $5,000 signing bonus.

At Chrysler Group LLC, the weakest of the Detroit Three automakers, guaranteed bonus payout is $5,750, including a signing bonus of $1,750.

Chrysler's 26,000 unionized workers will vote over the next two weeks on a tentative contract agreement reached by negotiators on Wednesday.

Veteran Ford auto plant workers make $28.12 per hour, and will see no increase in base pay. They have not received a base pay raise since 2003. Skilled trades workers make several dollars per hour more.

Wages for new hires that currently are about $15.50 per hour at Ford would rise to $19.28 per hour over the life of the contract.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Vicki Allen)