Ford reaches agreement with unions after one day strike at Russian assembly plant

Ford Motor Co. has reached agreement with labor unions at its only assembly plant in Russia after workers went on a one-day strike over job guarantees earlier this month, the company said Thursday.

In a statement, Ford said that a collective agreement reached with the plant's 2,000 hourly paid work force included a wage increase of between 14 percent and 20 percent as well as "improvements to other items," which the company did not specify.

The deal was "very good news for all sides... The pay and benefits package retains Ford's position as a leading edge employer in the region," General Director Theo Streit said.

Labor union officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

The assembly line and other operations at the Vsevolozhsk plant, near St. Petersburg, halted work for 24 hours at midnight Feb. 14., as union leaders demanded the company stop using temporary workers, guarantee jobs for workers injured at the plant and provide extra pay and other benefits for hazardous assignments.

About 8 percent of the plant's work force are temporary workers; monthly wages at the plant average between 13,000 to 19,000 rubles (US$498-US$727).

The Vsevolozhsk plant produced about 60,000 cars last year, mainly the Focus model, and plant officials hoped to increase production to 75,000 this year, reports AP.

Foreign automakers have been eager to open assembly plants in Russia to reach the growing number of consumers in the country. Soaring world oil prices have boosted Russia's economy, lifting living standards and enabling more people to buy cars.

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