Ford says ‘significant gaps’ remain in UAW labor contract talks

Sept 24 (Reuters) – Ford Motor (F.N) said on Sunday that despite progress in some areas, it still has “significant gaps to close” on key economic issues before it can reach a new labor agreement with the United Auto Workers union.

The “issues are interconnected and must work within an overall agreement that supports our mutual success,” it said in a late evening statement after talks over the weekend.

The UAW, which on Friday cited “real progress” in talks with the No. 2 U.S. automaker, did not immediately comment.

In contrast to Ford, the UAW has expanded strikes against General Motors (GM.N) and Chrysler-parent Stellantis (STLAM.MI) to 38 parts distribution centers across the United States. It was not immediately clear if main table bargaining took place with GM and Stellantis over the weekend.

The UAW began unprecedented, simultaneous strikes on Sept. 15 at one assembly plant each of the Detroit Three after the prior four-year labor deals expired. The strikes at additional GM and Stellantis facilities on Friday added about 5,600 workers to the 12,700 previously on strike.

UAW President Shawn Fain said Friday that Ford had improved its contract offer, including boosting profit sharing and agreeing to let workers strike over plant closures but said the union still had serious issues to resolve.

The Detroit Three automakers have proposed 20% raises over 4-1/2 years, while the UAW is seeking 40% along with 32-hour-work weeks, the return of defined benefit pensions and to eliminate wage gaps separating newer and older employees.

President Joe Biden will travel to Michigan Tuesday to show support for workers and visit a UAW picket line, while Donald Trump who is seeking a new term as president will speak in Clinton Township, Michigan Wednesday about the UAW strike.

GM said last week it was forced to idle its Kansas car plant because of a parts shortage stemming from the strike, which led it to temporarily furlough 2,000 workers in Kansas. Stellantis temporarily laid off 68 employees in Ohio last week and expects to furlough another 300 workers in Indiana because of the strike.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Edwina Gibbs