DETROIT — The UAW will focus negotiations on Ford Motor Co. after hourly members at General Motors ratified a four-year labor pact that includes significant wage gains and bonuses, ending a 40-day national strike that has idled plants in three countries.
"As America’s No. 1 producer of vehicles and largest employer of UAW-represented autoworkers, we look forward to reaching a fair agreement that helps Ford enhance its competitiveness and preserve and protect good-paying manufacturing jobs," Ford said in a statement.
A union spokesman said negotiations with Ford will begin immediately.
UAW negotiators have reported some progress in talks with both Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, though they had to wait until GM was finished before discussing most major economic issues because the union aims to use the first deal it reaches as the framework for the other two.
The UAW's final numbers show that 56 percent of GM production workers and 66 percent of skilled-trades employees voted in favor of the deal.
“General Motors members have spoken,” Terry Dittes, vice president of the union’s UAW-GM Department, said in a statement. “We are all so incredibly proud of UAW-GM members who captured the hearts and minds of a nation. Their sacrifice and courageous stand addressed the two-tier wages structure and permanent temporary worker classification that has plagued working class Americans."
A simple majority of workers within each group was required to secure ratification.
“We delivered a contract that recognizes our employees for the important contributions they make to the overall success of the company, with a strong wage and benefit package and additional investment and job growth in our U.S. operations,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “GM is proud to provide good-paying jobs to tens of thousands of employees in America and to grow our substantial investment in the U.S. As one team, we can move forward and stay focused on our priorities of safety and building high-quality cars, trucks and crossovers for our customers.”
The union's council of local leaders from GM plants and warehouses across the country agreed last week to continue the strike until the tentative deal was ratified. The union said employees will begin to return to work as instructed by GM. Members of UAW Local 598, representing Flint Assembly in Michigan, had been told to prepare to work Saturday.
In the deal, GM committed to investing $7.7 billion in its U.S. plants to create or retain about 9,000 jobs. The total amount of investment through 2023 could reach $9 billion, including $1.3 billion to start battery-cell production near Lordstown, Ohio, through a joint venture.
The automaker won the ability to close three plants, including Lordstown Assembly, but has pledged to give Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, which was slated for closure in January, new life building electric trucks and vans though a $3 billion investment.
The pact also calls for shuttering a training center jointly run by the UAW and GM. The UAW's GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles training centers have been at the center of an ongoing federal corruption probe that has resulted in guilty pleas by 10 former union and automaker officials. A current UAW regional director also has been charged and is on leave from his job as a result.
The deal includes a pathway for temporary workers to become full-time employees and will bring all current full-time workers to a top wage rate of $32.32 by the end of the four years.
Full-time workers receive a $11,000 ratification bonus, while temporary workers get $4,500. The first of two 4 percent lump-sum bonuses in the deal also is scheduled to be paid next month.
It took roughly five weeks of intense bargaining after the start of the strike for the two sides to come to an agreement. Talks were at times heated, with both sides exchanging public statements accusing the other of playing games and stalling the process. GM CEO Mary Barra stepped in at one point to help break the impasse.
The ratification vote, held over the past week, exposed a divide among members. Many who voted no were upset the union wasn't able to save the closed plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland and that the deal did not include promises to return any production from Mexico.
Videos of informational meetings at local union halls posted to social media showed workers voicing displeasure over the deal.
A small group of employees with a parts subsidiary, General Motors Components Holdings, voted heavily against the deal, angered it didn't offer more job security or bring them to even wages with their GM counterparts.