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Visteon, Ford ink labor deal

DETROIT — The Ford Motor Co. and the auto parts giant Visteon said late Monday evening that they had reached tentative agreement on a four-year labor contract with the United Automobile Workers union.

The deal was the second announced Monday between the union and a Big Three automaker, an unusually swift resolution to the talks that reflects union leaders' realization of the competitive difficulties faced by the Big Three, whose domestic market share fell to a record monthly low in August.

Just after midnight on Sunday, the union's president, Ron Gettelfinger, said he had reached a deal with the Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler. Traditionally, the union waits until the first deal is ratified by workers at the company before moving on to negotiate in earnest with a second company, a process that can take a couple of weeks.

"This was really quite a brave and unprecedented move that Ron undertook to have simultaneous bargaining," said William Clay Ford Jr., the chairman and chief executive of Ford.

Gettelfinger said "negotiation is the art of the possible, not the impossible," adding that negotiations continued with General Motors, the world's largest automaker by volume, as well as the parts giant Delphi, which was spun off from GM in 1999.

The sides are pushing to reach an agreement this week, according to people briefed on the union's strategy.

Terms of the deals with Ford, Chrysler and Visteon, which was spun off from Ford in 2000, were not disclosed. People close to the negotiations said it would probably preserve health care benefits but scale back some of the wage and pension increases that characterized the last four-year deals, which were negotiated in more prosperous times.

The union had tried to reach an unprecedented deal with all of the Big Three before the contracts expired before midnight Sunday but said soon after the contract expired that it had only reached a deal with Chrysler.