Holidays dispute keeps UAW from signing Ford pact


DETROIT -- Two hours before they were formally to sign a three-year contract negotiated last month with Ford Motor Co., top officials of the United Automobile Workers union notified Ford that they were unhappy with the company's view of one provision and would not sign.

Ford officials said they were caught off guard Tuesday night by the union's objection, which deals with a provision giving workers a four-day weekend around Independence Day. Ford and the union had scheduled a signing ceremony at 10 a.m. yesterday, which they called off at 8 a.m. No new date for signing the agreement was scheduled.

It was a highly unusual move by the UAW, since the Ford agreement had already been ratified by the union's members at the No. 2 automaker by a 2-to-1 margin, and the union had publicly treated it as a done deal. Furthermore, the UAW is now locked in negotiations with General Motors Corp.

At issue are paid holidays intended to provide a four-day weekend over the Independence Day holiday in 1995 and 1996. The union won the new days off as part of the agreement. But UAW officials said yesterday they were concerned that those new days might overlap with traditional two-week production shutdowns at Ford plants.

Most workers already use their vacation time during that two-week period. Workers could lose the special four-day weekend the UAW intended to create if it falls during the production shutdown.

"We're having a discussion about the holiday provision," said Ford spokesman David Caplan.

"What the union has asked us to consider is moving that vacation shutdown out of that Fourth of July week so that the holiday and the shutdown do not overlap." Mr. Caplan said, however, that moving that shutdown period could prove difficult because it would upset company production schedules.

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