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Ford Workers Reject Contract Changes

By Dee-Ann Durbin

DETROIT -- Ford Motor (F - Get Report) workers have overwhelmingly rejected contract changes that would have allowed the automaker to cut labor costs, leaving Ford at a disadvantage to its Detroit rivals as it continues its struggle to return to profitability.

The United Auto Workers union had given local unions until Monday to complete voting. But a person briefed on the voting said Saturday that the contract changes have been rejected by large margins. The person asked not to be named because the UAW hasn't announced the results yet.

The UAW and Ford agreed to the contract changes several weeks ago, but Ford workers needed to ratify them. Ford has 41,000 UAW-represented workers.

Two large union locals in Kentucky and Ford's home city of Dearborn rejected the contract Friday, sealing its fate. Those unions together represent 13,000 Ford workers. Exact tallies weren't available, but at least 12 UAW locals representing about 27,500 workers so far have vetoed the deal, many overwhelmingly. Only about four locals with a total of 7,000 members favored the pact.

Ford sought the deal to bring its labor costs in line with Detroit rivals Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors, both of which won concessions from the union as they headed into bankruptcy protection earlier this year. Under pattern bargaining, the three automakers usually match pay, benefits and other contract provisions.

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