Ford "disappointed" in UAW vote but is Louisville plant in danger?

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on November 2, 2009 at 8:00 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 2 at 9:08 PM

Ford workers here and across the country say they won't accept any more union concessions but does that put the Louisville assembly plant in jeopardy?

At one time, the Fern Valley Road facility was on Ford's list of plants to be closed.
 
It was rescued by a new union contract and state incentives.
 
Ford says it is "disappointed" in the vote, but "absolutely committed" to making progress on their transformation plan.
 
And the top union official at this plant says he believes the vote does not threaten Ford's plans here, it could cost up to 7000 jobs nationally.
 
The news comes as Ford surprised analysts with big profits in the third quarter, $357 million in North America alone.
 
UAW member Debbie Byrd is all smiles after hearing that Ford turned a nearly $1 billion profit in the third quarter. 
 
It comes after she voted against the union deal aimed at helping Ford stay competitive with GM and Chrysler's labor costs.
 
Despite Ford's commitment to save her plant with production of a new vehicle, more than 80% of local workers also voted it down.
 
"I think we'll be okay,” said Byrd.
 
When asked, “Are you afraid that Ford will take it out on you now and you'll lose some jobs?”
 
Byrd replied, “No. I don't think they'll take it back. They've already promised. They already made a promise.”
 
And a top union official agrees saying the Louisville plans were firmed up when other concessions were ratified earlier this year. 
 
If that's the case, why did UAW leadership push so hard for a deal in Louisville?
 
“I think there are going to be locations that could be affected by this. I just don't think LAP is going to be one of them. We have our commitments on our main products coming in here in the 2007 agreement,” said Byrd.
 
In other words, while Louisville is still on track to gain about 2000 jobs at LAP by 2012, Stone says the no vote nationally will probably cost other plants, and will discourage ford from moving more work to the United States.
 
“We were trying to pull some other vehicles out of other countries and lower the long term labor costs.”
 
Less than 20 years ago, the UAW boasted more than 100,000 Ford workers. With that number now at about 42,000 and dropping, union leaders here are fighting for union jobs anywhere.
 
“I think long term there could be repercussions. I just don't think Louisville Assembly is in a position right now. Everything that done, we should be in fine shape,” Byrd said.
 
So what's next?
 
The UAW is not expected to go back to the bargaining table until the contract expires in 2011.
 
Sources have told WHAS11 that Ford will move production of a compact SUV from Germany to this plant in 2012.
 
The union expects Ford to make an announcement in the spring.
 
Meanwhile, Canadian Ford workers approved the concessions.
 
 “With national health care up there, they have different costs, but right now with the rate exchange, we're very competitive probably cheaper labor right now just because of the exchange rates,” said Steve Stone, UAW/LAP Building Chairperson.
 
The UAW is not expected to go back to the bargaining table until the contract expires in 2011.
 
And while Ford is still heavily in debt, the automaker is reporting nearly $1 billion in profits for the third quarter.

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