Even before the voting started, union officials had predicted a close vote because the changes to the contract are unpopular with both active workers, who will pay slightly higher co-pays on prescription drugs, and with retirees who are now obligated to pay up $752 per year for "in network" health services and up to $1,252 per year if they go outside the network. The changes are expected to save Ford as much as $850 million annually.
The agreement still needs court approval but a similar pact with GM has already been approved by the U.S. District Court in Detroit. In addition, it appears that some workers used the healthcare vote to register an early protest against Ford's turnaround plan that could lead to the elimination of thousands of blue-collar jobs. The plan is due out in January.-- Joseph Szczesny