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Old 01-06-2006, 09:58   #1 (permalink)
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US:Some UAW members challenge Ford health-care deal

Some UAW members challenge Ford health-care deal

Reuters
Automotive News

DETROIT -- A handful of United Auto Workers members are challenging the union's ratification vote that approved a deal to lower health-care costs at Ford Motor Co., a lawyer representing the workers said on Thursday, Jan. 5.

Blue-collar workers at Ford last month ratified with a 51 percent majority a deal that Ford said will allow it to cut about $650 million in annual health-care expenses.

Two union members at Ford in Michigan and a Ford retiree in Ohio have sent letters to UAW President Ron Gettelfinger questioning how the ratification vote was conducted at some of the automaker's plants, said Ellis Boal, a labor lawyer representing the three workers.

"There are several issues," Boal told Reuters. "The most resonating issue I would say is whether the vote count was valid and whether proper ratification meetings were held."

A call to a UAW spokesman was not immediately returned.

Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans declined to comment, saying the workers' challenge was an internal UAW issue.

"I don't believe 51 percent voted in favor of it," said Dennis Lapso, a Ford retiree from Local 1250 in Ohio. "I think it wasn't passed at all."

Lapso said he hopes the challenge will lead to a new vote on the deal, which increases drug co-payments for active workers and requires retired UAW members to pay monthly premiums for the first time.

Boal said other UAW-Ford members are likely to join the challenge.

The Ford-UAW health-care pact follows a similar deal in October with General Motors that was ratified by the automaker's active workers by a 61 percent majority.

Boal said he is also representing nine GM retirees who are planning to question whether they should be allowed to vote on this type of an agreement since it increases retiree costs.

The UAW's constitution doesn't give retirees the right to vote on contracts, but Boal says the "rules are flexible", given a decision by a UAW public review board in 1997.
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