Union members at Ford ( F) have approved contract modifications that include changes in retiree health care funding.

Fifty-nine percent of production workers and 58% of skilled-trade workers voted for the agreement, the United Auto Workers said Monday.

"Once again UAW members have stepped up to make the difficult decisions necessary to deal with the reality of the current economy, the deteriorating auto industry as a whole and specifically the negative impact the economic climate is having on Ford Motor Co.," said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, in a prepared statement.

The vote enables modifications to the 2007 contract as well as changes that will enable Ford to use stock to fund a portion of its contribution to the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association health care trust.

"By working together with our UAW partners, we identified solutions that will help Ford reach competitive parity with foreign-owned auto manufacturers and that are important to our efforts to operate through the current economic environment without accessing a bridge loan from the U.S. government," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford group vice president, in a prepared statement.

"We are facing an unprecedented loss of sales and revenue at Ford," said UAW Vice President Bob King, who oversees the Ford contract. "The voting results show that our members are prepared to make painful sacrifices in order to be part of the solution to the problems facing Ford and the U.S. auto industry."

In trading Monday afternoon, Ford shares were up 4 cents to $1.74, while shares in General Motors ( GM) were up 20 cents to $1.65.

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