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UAW gearing up for intense talks with Ford

DETROIT, Oct 29 (Reuters) - United Auto Workers negotiators were preparing on Monday to intensify contract talks with Ford Motor Co F.N, the Detroit Big Three automaker considered the most direly in need of concessions from the union.

Working-level negotiators from Ford and the UAW met at the automaker’s Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters over the weekend, according to one person briefed on the negotiations.

Contract talks between Ford and the UAW have been moving slowly after the union extended its previous contract with the automaker so it could focus on wrapping up deals with General Motors Corp GM.N and Chrysler.

While an eventual deal with Ford is expected to be similar to the ones with GM and Chrysler, the issues of product and job guarantees sought by the union could be more difficult at Ford, analysts said.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in an interview on WJR Radio in Detroit on Monday that union negotiators were gearing up for the talks with some internal “number crunching.”

Asked if he agreed that Ford is in worse shape than the other two Detroit automakers, Gettelfinger said: “We have some concerns about Ford, there is no question about that. They are a good company to work with, though ... we are looking forward to being able to get that one behind us.”

A Ford spokeswoman declined to comment on the talks.

Ford, which has said it will close 16 North American factories as part of its restructuring, has so far identified only 10 of those facilities. Ford has 33 UAW-represented factories in the United States.

“Adapting the GM pattern to Ford is going to be complex in part because Ford has six plants that are unidentified,” said Harley Shaiken, labor expert at University of California-Berkeley.

“Those (six plants) will likely be on the table. What the UAW need to do to keep them open will be the subject of tough negotiations,” Shaiken said.

Burnham Securities analyst Dave Healy said it was doubtful that Ford could afford to keep the plants open and provide product guarantees as it continued to lose market share.

“I think the union may may make some concession for Ford because of the difficult situation it is in,” Healy said, but added he still expected Ford to sign a deal broadly similar to those with GM and Chrysler.

Ford has made it clear it will push for deeper concessions from the union than those offered GM or Chrysler.

The automaker lost its No. 2 spot in the U.S. market to Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T this year after its sales slid 13 percent in the first nine months of the year.

The UAW and Chrysler reached a tentative deal on Oct. 10 on a four-year pact, ending a six-hour strike. The contract followed the pattern of the deal the union reached with GM last month.

Chrysler’s deal with the UAW almost failed to be ratified as it did not include the plant-by-plant product guarantees that was a highlight of the union’s deal with GM.

(Reporting by Poornima Gupta, additional reporting by David Bailey)

((Editing by Gary Hill; email: poornima.gupta@reuters.com; tel:313-967-1901)) Keywords: FORD UAW/

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