Ford, Union Reach Tentative Agreement, Avert Strike

DETROIT (AP) - In a decision affecting thousands of workers at two plants in Liouisville, the United Auto Workers union reached a tentative contract agreement Saturday with Ford Motor Co., the last of the Big Three automakers participating in a historic round of negotiations that has slashed wages and changed the way health care is provided to retirees.

Ford said the deal, if approved by a majority of the approximately 54,000 workers represented, will make it more competitive as it tries to halt its sliding U.S. market share.

Tentative agreement on Ford's four-year contract was reached around 3:20 a.m. EDT without a strike. The UAW held short strikes against General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC before reaching agreements with those automakers.

Details were not immediately released, but a person briefed on the deal said Ford scaled back plans to close some U.S. plants and has promised to make significant product investments to ensure those plants will remain open for now. The person requested anonymity because the union hadn't released details.

In exchange, Ford will be allowed to pay lower wages to thousands of new hires, a provision already agreed to in contracts with GM and Chrysler.

Ford said the deal allows it to move its estimated $22 billion in retiree health care obligations to a union-run trust. The company didn't say how much it will have to contribute to the trust. GM and Chrysler have similar agreements in their contracts.

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