* Ford expands in-house US union jobs commitment to 1,975
* Says exceeds commitment to UAW by 25 percent
* Ford has brought 1,340 jobs to US plants since 2008 (Adds comments by Ford executive, adds details of plan, other background)
By David Bailey
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., Aug 4 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N) said on Wednesday it would expand by 635 jobs a commitment to bring work that has previously been performed by parts suppliers to its U.S. unionized plants.
The move would be in place by 2012, and would raise the number of jobs the automaker has brought back to its U.S. plants to 1,975. That would exceed by 25 percent Ford’s commitment to the United Auto Workers.
Ford has already brought 1,340 jobs back to its U.S. plants for work parts makers performed in the United States or elsewhere.
Ford, which reported a $2.6 billion second-quarter profit in July, is expected to be the initial focus of contract talks next year between the UAW and the Detroit-based automakers which also include General Motors [GM.UL] and Chrysler.
The initial commitments arose from Ford’s agreement with the UAW in the 2007 national contract. The UAW is expected to seek to recover some of the concessions it has agreed to during the downturn, which included job, wage and benefit cuts.
The additional jobs will be added at nine Ford plants.
“Could there be more? We are absolutely going to look at it,” Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, said at a Center for Automotive Research conference.
Fields said the jobs would be filled by a combination of Ford workers who are on indefinite layoff and by new hiring at the entry-level wages and benefits negotiated with the UAW in the last contract.
The combination of competitive operating agreements with the union and the ability to bring in some workers at entry-level wages made the in-sourcing of jobs possible, Fields told reporters. The majority of the jobs will be in Michigan, he said.
The automaker has about 500 workers on indefinite layoff right now, but that figure varies depending on production needs and the conversion of plants to new products.
Ford already is hiring some workers at entry-level wages and benefits for a second shift at its Chicago Assembly Plant where it will build the Explorer SUV. It also builds the Taurus and Lincoln MKS sedans at that plant.
President Barack Obama, who toured GM and Chrysler plants in Detroit on Friday, plans to tour the Chicago plant on Thursday.
Ford has already announced plans to bring battery pack assembly for hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles back from Mexico to a plant near Detroit. The overall plans include adding some machining, stamping and assembly jobs that might have been performed by suppliers.
“The UAW has worked with us closely on a more competitive agreement that helped us create the business case for moving more work back to Ford facilities, and back to America,” Fields said.
Ford shares were up 1.32 percent at $13.08 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday morning. (Reporting by David Bailey, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Matthew Lewis)