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Ford says resolves UAW disputes at Missouri plant

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co and the United Auto Workers have resolved disputes over work issues at a Missouri plant that prompted workers to hold a strike authorization vote, a Ford spokeswoman said on Saturday.

A team of senior Ford executives, national UAW leaders and leaders from UAW Local 249 reached agreement late Friday to resolve the concerns raised by local members and the matter has been closed, Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said.

About 3,500 workers at Ford's Kansas City assembly plant, which builds F-150 pickup trucks, Ford Escape SUVs and Mercury Mariner SUVs, began voting Thursday on whether to authorize a strike due to disputes over working conditions, workload and job security.

A union official could not be reached immediately for comment. Voting has been scheduled to conclude late Saturday night. While workers could give leaders the authority to strike, no immediate walkout was expected.

The local vote came less than two weeks after Ford's 41,000 U.S. factory workers overwhelmingly rejected a proposed deal that would have aligned labor costs with those of rivals General Motors Co and Chrysler Group LLC.

Workers at the Kansas City plant voted 92 percent against the tentative agreement, which was rejected nationally by 75 percent of skilled trades workers and 70 percent of production workers.

UAW Local 249 President Jeff Wright said in an interview after the vote on the tentative agreement that more than 200 disciplinary reports had been raised against local workers in the weeks before the contract vote.

On the local union's web site, Wright later said working conditions had become "intolerable" and that the UAW leadership had said it would stand behind the local in the work standards fight "even if it meant going on strike."

In February, unionized workers at Ford agreed to about $500 million per year in labor cost cuts as well as changes to the 2007 contract that gave Ford flexibility in how it funds a healthcare trust for union retirees.

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger told Reuters Autos Summit last week that the additional changes in the tentative agreement would have saved Ford less than $30 million per year.

Gettelfinger said Ford's relative financial health compared to GM and Chrysler likely played a role in the UAW workers' decision to reject the tentative national agreement. Ford posted a nearly $1 billion third-quarter profit.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Paul Simao)

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