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Ford faces UAW strike threat at F-150 factory

'Safety, seniority and manpower' at issue in local talks, union says

Jimmy Settles, the UAW vice president in charge of negotiations with Ford, told workers in an email late Tuesday that they should “not read too much into the details of the FCA tentative agreement.”

About 7,000 UAW members at a Missouri plant that builds the highly profitable Ford F-150 could go on strike as soon as Sunday because Ford Motor Co. has refused to negotiate terms of a local contract “in good faith,” union leaders say.

UAW Local 249, whose members build the F-150 and Ford Transit van at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo., has given Ford three days’ notice to cancel its contract extension and set a strike deadline of 1 p.m. CT on Sunday.

“The company refuses to address important issues around safety, seniority and manpower at KCAP,” Todd Hillyard, bargaining chairman for Local 249, wrote in a message to workers posted online Tuesday. “We feel we have no other choice at this point to reach a fair agreement. Strike duty is attached below in the unfortunate event we are not able to reach an agreement with the company ...”

Hillyard wrote that negotiators from the union and Ford have met more than 40 times since April. On Monday, he wrote in a Facebook post that the two sides were meeting “around the clock” and that Ford was “sending people from Detroit in next week since nobody here can make a decision on some of the items we still have left on the table.”

The talks are separate from negotiations on the national contract between Ford and the UAW.

The national talks have been put on hold -- and the previous contract extended indefinitely -- while workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles vote on a tentative deal that would give workers raises but prevent anyone hired since 2007 from ever reaching the same level of wages that veteran workers earn.

A walkout at the Kansas City plant could disrupt deliveries of the F-150 just as U.S. sales of the newly redesigned, aluminum-bodied pickup were beginning to take off and dealer inventories were returning to normal levels following a lengthy model-changeover process.

“We work every day to avoid a disruption of our production,” Ford said in a statement, “and we are confident we will be able to negotiate a fair and competitive labor agreement with our UAW partners.”

Thousands of workers have voted against the UAW’s tentative agreement with Fiat Chrysler, putting its prospects of ratification in serious jeopardy. If the deal fails, the union could return to the bargaining table with FCA, go on strike or resume talks with either Ford or General Motors.

Jimmy Settles, the UAW vice president in charge of negotiations with Ford, told workers in an email late Tuesday that they should “not read too much into the details of the FCA tentative agreement.”

Opposition to the FCA deal has been simmering on Facebook and other online venues since it was reached Sept. 15, with some of the anger coming from Ford workers hoping for better terms in their deal.

“Until we have reached a tentative agreement, there is no way to guess what our contract will possess,” Settles wrote. “As I have shared before, I vow not to present the membership with a tentative agreement that does not address its current needs and concerns.”

Settles said he gave Ford 120 hours notice to cancel the Local 249 contract extension at about 1 p.m. Tuesday and that UAW President Dennis Williams had authorized the local’s strike request.

“The company has failed to negotiate in good faith at the local level on issues surrounding manpower provisions, the national heat stress program, and skilled trades scheduling amongst others,” Settles wrote. “The challenges we face may not be easy, and I certainly cannot predict the future, but I would rather die fighting than to do an injustice to this membership or our institution.”

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@autonews.com -- Follow Nick on Twitter: @nickbunkley

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