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Canadian workers OK pact with Ford

TORONTO -- Ford Canada workers have overwhelmingly accepted a new labor deal, even though it offers some of the lowest wage gains in their union's history and allows for hundreds of layoffs.

The Canadian Auto Workers union said yesterday that 95 percent of Ford union workers accepted the three-year deal, which had been tentatively approved by negotiators last week.

About half of Ford's 11,600 union workers voted on the deal in the Ontario cities of Windsor, St. Thomas, and Brampton.

The result appears to be a win for the CAW president, Buzz Hargrove, who acknowledges that the deal was a difficult one for members since it allows Ford to trim its union work force by 1,100 positions over three years.

''It shows that even in tough bargaining, if the union and the company meet their responsibilities, a deal can be reached," Hargrove said after the results of the vote were released yesterday afternoon.

The deal also includes the closing of a casting plant in Windsor and offers base wage hikes of roughly 1.5 percent in the first year, followed by two annual increases of 1 percent. Those are the lowest raises negotiated for assembly plant workers since the CAW split from the United Auto Workers union in the mid-1980s.

Ford Motor Co., based in Dearborn, Mich., is preparing a broader restructuring plan of its North American operations, which will seek to cut costs amid profit declines and intensified auto market competition.

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