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Unionized workers at American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings' Cheektowaga plant will receive annual wage increases averaging 3 percent to 5 percent under a contract approved by a wide margin by members of the United Auto Workers Local 846.

The contract, which will run for four years retroactive to March, was approved by 73 percent of the 130 employees covered by the agreement, said Kevin Donovan, the UAW's area director.

The agreement also adjusts the term of the contract so that it runs over the same span covered by the company's national contract, Donovan said Tuesday.

The previous agreement paid beginning union members $13.50 an hour to as much as $15.50 an hour for workers with five years experience. The new contract was approved in voting that was conducted last Thursday and Friday, Donovan said.

American Axle has three plants, in Buffalo, Cheektowaga and the Town of Tonawanda. The company's plants in Buffalo and Tonawanda were not included in the latest contract talks because their local agreements were settled when the national contract, which created a lower pay scale for American Axle's new hires, was hammered out in March. The UAW already had approved a lower base wage for workers at the Cheektowaga plant when it opened in 2000. Workers there make about $10 less than their counterparts at other American Axle plants.

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