DETROIT — The proposed contract covering 55,000 UAW-represented workers at Ford Motor Co. follows the broad economic framework of the union's newly ratified agreement with General Motors, but the two companies arrived at their labor pacts in very different ways.
Without needing to make job cuts, as GM did, Ford swallowed a deal that likely costs more than initially anticipated to avoid a disruptive, protracted battle.
Ford agreed to keep health care coverage largely unchanged after proposing that workers pay 20 percent of costs, the union said, and to pay $1,500 annual "inflation protection" bonuses, instead of the $1,000 performance bonuses in the GM deal.
The union said the economic gains in the Ford contract, including two wage increases, annual profit-sharing checks and seven other bonuses, are worth nearly $30,000 to production workers over four years. For Ford, which employs nearly 9,000 more UAW members than GM, that would represent some $1.6 billion.
GM's contentious negotiations included a 40-day national strike that cost the automaker nearly $3 billion and negated — mostly through lost wages — much of the $11,000 signing bonus workers will receive this week. Ford and the union, meanwhile, struck a deal after three outwardly drama-free days of main-table negotiations; the bargaining teams didn't even work over the weekend after the UAW shifted to Ford once the GM deal had been ratified.
The speed and ease with which the UAW reached a tentative agreement with Ford is a sign of their strong relationship and experience cutting deals, experts say. UAW members will vote through Nov. 15 on the contract, which includes a $9,000 ratification bonus, two 3 percent wage increases and no change in health care coverage.
"Their experience certainly helped speed up the process," said Colin Lightbody, a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles negotiator who's now president of a consulting firm. "You have that level of trust that's already there."
For Bill Dirksen, Ford's vice president of labor affairs since 2014, this was the fifth set of UAW negotiations in which he's had a key role.