- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DETROIT — Workers at Chrysler’s largest United Auto Workers local have voted in favor of a new four-year contract, a sign that the deal will be approved when voting ends next week.

If Chrysler’s 26,000 union workers ratify their contract, they will join workers at Ford and General Motors in approving deals that give up annual pay raises for most workers but replace them with profit sharing and signing bonuses. The deals also promise at least 13,000 new union jobs at all three companies.

Wednesday’s announcement of the vote by union workers at three Chrysler Group LLC facilities in Indiana comes on the same day that the United Auto Workers said union members had approved a new contract at Ford Motor Co., with 63 percent of those casting ballots in favor. General Motors Co. workers ratified their deal last month.

The labor deals are the first round of contracts in the wake of the taxpayer bailouts approved by President Obama for GM and Chrysler in 2009 to keep them from going under.

The contracts set the wages and benefits for 112,000 auto workers nationwide and influence the pay at auto plants owned by foreign companies, auto parts suppliers and other industries.

United Auto Workers Local 685, which represents about 3,500 workers at three Chrysler transmission factories in Kokomo, Ind., approved the contract in voting Tuesday, said Jerry Price, vice president of the local.

He conceded that the contract isn’t the best of the Detroit Three automakers and said those who opposed it were unhappy that GM and Ford workers got better signing bonuses.

Chrysler’s still not financially as good as Ford or General Motors,” Mr. Price said. “We live to fight another day.”

The Chrysler deal includes a $3,500 signing bonus and profit sharing, but it’s not as rich as the contracts at Ford and GM. Ford’s signing bonus, for instance, is $6,000, while GM’s is $5,000. Chrysler has yet to make a full-year profit since it emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2009, while GM and Ford have each made billions.

Ford promised $4.8 billion in new investments in its U.S. plants and 5,750 new jobs. Both sides reached agreement Oct. 4, but like the other two companies, workers had to ratify it with a majority vote.

Most workers won’t get annual raises, but they will get profit-sharing checks, inflation-adjustment payments and other bonuses worth at least $16,700 through 2015. The deal at GM is similar.

The vote ends the threat of a strike at Ford, the only company where the union could stage a walkout. Strikes over wages were banned at GM and Chrysler as part of its government bailout. Ford borrowed billions from private sources and didn’t take government money.