DETROIT (Reuters) -- The UAW official in charge of contract talks with Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday he opposes the automaker's plans to build a lineup of new vehicles outside the United States.
"I'm upset about the fact that Ford Motor Co. plans to, first of all, not build in Atlanta, and then also to send that particular work to Canada and also to Mexico," UAW International Vice President Gerald Bantom told Reuters.
Bantom was referring to what industry analysts have said are Ford's plans to build a new mid-sized family sedan at its plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, and at least two new mid-sized SUVs at another plant in Oakville, Ontario.
Bantom was also referring to the uncertain future faced by Ford's plant in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, where it builds the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable, aging vehicles that Ford is expected to kill off this decade.
Bantom did not elaborate or say how Ford's plans could affect the outcome of the labor talks that began last month.
Ed Lewis, a spokesman for Ford, said he was unable to comment on the company's plans for its Atlanta plant or the plants in Mexico and Canada.
"We don't discuss future product plans and future business strategies," Lewis said.
Ford has targeted at least two U.S. assembly plants for shutdowns as part of the multiyear turnaround plan it launched in January 2002. Any decision to build new products in lower-cost labor markets outside the United States is sure to be an issue in the labor negotiations.
The talks, involving not only Ford but General Motors and the Chrysler unit of DaimlerChrysler AG,will heat up around Labor Day when the UAW typically picks a "target company" for its hardest bargaining. After hammering out an agreement with the first company, the UAW takes that pattern for labor contracts it will sign with the other two.
Ford has lagged its Detroit competitors in bulking up Mexican production. Ford's two Mexican plants have built about 4 percent of Ford's North American output this year, and Ford is killing the Escort car line built there.
Meanwhile, Chrysler has two plants in Mexico with capacity for more than 400,000 vehicles that account for roughly 17 percent of its North American output. And GM has three assembly plants capable of building at least 500,000 vehicles a year in Mexico, or about 9 percent of its North American production.