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Ford giving Woodlawn stamping plant a $60 million vote of confidence

Ford Motor Co. will invest $60 million in its Woodlawn stamping plant, according to a United Auto Workers summary of a newly ratified contract.

The Route 5 plant, which has about 1,000 hourly and salaried workers, makes stamped metal parts for a variety of Ford vehicles. Under the new labor agreement that was ratified by union members last week, the mix of work done at the Hamburg plant will be changing.

The UAW contract summary says the Woodlawn plant will continue to stamp parts for the current models of the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, as well as add stampings for the new Edge. But the plant's production of parts for the F-150 and Super Duty will be transferred to other U.S. facilities.

The new investment represents a vote of confidence by Ford in the Woodlawn facility. Automakers' stamping plants are typically located near their assembly operations, to promote efficiency. The Woodlawn site, which opened in 1950, functions as a standalone operation. The plant ships stamped parts to a variety of Ford assembly facilities, including one in Oakville, Ont., just outside of Toronto. That distance, and the shipping costs, puts the Woodlawn plant at a natural disadvantage to sister plants that are closer to the assembly plants they supply.

The Detroit Three automakers often announce decisions about where to invest ā€” and where not ā€” at the time new labor contracts are negotiated. The new investments offer reassurance to plants that they figure into the automaker's production plans.

Ford recently revealed it will close an engine plant in Romeo, Mich. GM's contract negotiations with the UAW were contentious in part because of the automaker's decision to close three of its U.S. plants; a fourth GM plant considered at risk of closing will instead survive, making all-electric pickup trucks.

The UAW in its summary of the four-year deal with Ford told members that its negotiators "pushed the company on the future of the Buffalo stamping plant."

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"The company agreed that (the Buffalo stamping plant) is an important part of the business and will support Oakville [Ont.] and Ohio assembly plants during the 2019 agreement," the summary said. "The union and company will partner together to explore further opportunities for the Buffalo stamping plant."

The UAW contract summary didn't specify how the $60 million would be spent, and Kelli Felker, a Ford spokeswoman, declined to elaborate on Ford's planned investment in the Woodlawn plant.

The contract summary says Ford will invest $6 billion in 19 of its facilities, resulting in at least 8,500 new or secured jobs. The $60 million for the Woodlawn plant was tied for the second smallest investment among the 19 sites. The largest commitment was $1.1 billion, for Ford's Michigan assembly plant.

A vote tracker compiled by Automotive News said 63% of members of UAW Local 897 who cast ballots at the Woodlawn plant voted in favor of the agreement. Across the company, 56.3% of ballots were cast in favor of the deal.

The deal included a $9,000 contract ratification bonus for seniority employees and $3,500 for temporary employees. The contract covers about 55,000 hourly workers.

The new contract between the UAW and Ford was negotiated and ratified much more swiftly than the deal between the union and General Motors. The UAW was on strike against GM for about six weeks, before workers ratified a deal in late October. The strike affected nearly 3,000 hourly workers at two GM plants in the Buffalo Niagara region.

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