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UAW workers at large GM plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, approve pact

An American flag flies in front of the United Auto Workers union logo on the front of the UAW Solidarity House in Detroit, Michigan, September 8, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - United Auto Workers members at the General Motors Co (GM.N) truck plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, approved a new four-year contract by a wide margin, joining momentum in favor of the deal as voting continues on Thursday.

The president of the UAW local in Fort Wayne said on Thursday morning that the vote was 1,839 to 1,311 in favor at the plant, which makes GM pickup trucks.

Fort Wayne joined large plants in Wentzville, Missouri, and Spring Hill, Tennessee, which approved the new contract on Wednesday night. At least 60 percent of production workers at the two plants favored the deal, local media and social media posts show.

Analysts said the contract appeared on its way to passage, but were cautious about declaring it would pass.

Most large GM plants had finished voting, but those in Lansing, Michigan, and Lordstown, Ohio, had not.

Negotiators for Ford Motor Co (F.N) continued to meet with UAW representatives but had not begun discussions on the final economic aspects of a contract, said people familiar with the talks. It is widely believed that the final push to nail down a contract at Ford would not begin until after GM's ratification vote.

The UAW is not expected to announce the final tally of the GM vote until the weekend. The union and company reached a deal on the contract on Oct. 25.

Kristin Dziczek, labor analyst with the Center for Automotive Research, said that overall, workers appeared on their way to passing the deal. Production workers are in favor, while the fewer skilled-trade workers at major plants have opposed the deal.

Dziczek said skilled-trade workers were rejecting the overall deal in part because they are ineligible for a $60,000 early retirement incentive under the proposed contract. GM will pay out that incentive to as many as 4,000 UAW production workers.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCHA.MI)(FCAU.N) in September overwhelmingly rejected the first negotiated proposal but approved the second one, which took effect last week.

The Fiat Chrysler deal set an eight-year path from hiring to top pay, which goes from $17 per hour to nearly $30. It provided ratification bonuses of $3,000 to workers hired after 2007 and $4,000 to those hired before then.

GM's proposed pact has the same eight-year path for workers hired after 2007 to reach top pay, along with a richer ratification bonus of $8,000.


(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)