Ford Motor Co. said it could add a third shift at the Chicago Assembly Plant as part of a commitment to add 5,750 new jobs companywide following a tentative contract agreement reached Tuesday with the United Auto Workers.
Under the proposed four-year deal, which still has to be ratified by union members, Ford could employ 1,100 more workers and spend more than $200 million to upgrade its Chicago area facilities.
Next year, the Chicago Assembly Plant will add the Ford Police Interceptor to the suite of vehicles it produces. The plant is the final assembly site for the Ford Explorer, Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS. Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford plans to invest $86 million in the Chicago Stamping Plant in Chicago Heights to produce more vehicle stampings.
Company and union officials said displaced Ford workers would be sought as a priority before new hires are made.
During a Tuesday morning news conference, Ford Executive Vice President John Fleming said the company is pleased with the agreement and thanked the union during the "demanding" negotiations.
Fleming, who leads Ford's global manufacturing and labor affairs, also said the contract is fair to employees "and recognizes their contribution to the success of Ford." He said the planned investments in its plants will help return work and jobs to the U.S. from Mexico, China and Japan.
The numbers are part of a larger plan to add 12,000 jobs and spend $16 billion through 2015 to design, engineer and build new vehicles and their components.
If the agreement is ratified, workers would receive at least a $5,000 signing bonus. Employees also would receive four $1,500 inflation protection payments over the term of the contract. The contract covers about 41,000 Ford employees.
Prior to negotiations taking place, union officials said it was important for members to be rewarded for sacrifices made when the company was in the throes of the recession.
UAW President Bob King said he didn't think union officials would have to sell the current agreement to members because they understand the fragile economic climate and the realities facing many workers. King said the 1 percent increase in the overall cost of the Ford contract is compatible with the UAW's agreement with General Motors Co.
"We feel very positive about the agreement," King said during Tuesday's news conference. "We're aware of the competition that Ford, GM and Chrysler face."
The two-tier wage scale remains in place for workers, but pay for existing entry employees would rise 22 percent to $19.28 in two years. New hires would start at the $15.78 rate.
Contract negotiations started in late July. The previous four-year agreement expired Sept. 14, but bargaining officials continued to negotiate past its expiration.
The UAW said last week 65 percent of its members working for General Motors Co. ratified a new bargaining agreement. The deal was the first one the union reached with the three domestic automakers, which includes Chrysler Group LLC.
Negotiations are continuing between the UAW and Chrysler.
Ford shares closed up 71 cents to $10.08 in Tuesday trading.