Negotiators for Ford Motor Company and the United Auto Workers (UAW) resumed talks in Detroit Feb. 8 with cautious optimism that an extraordinary agreement can be reached this week.
Substantial differences remain between Ford's contract proposals and the concessions UAW is willing to make to help the struggling No. 2 US automaker become more competitive with General Motors and foreign producers.
However, according to UAW's chief negotiator with Ford, Donald Ephlin, portions of Ford's proposals are ''interesting.'' If the company makes ''substantial modifications,'' he said, he is hopeful ''we can put an agreement together.''
Ford negotiator Peter Pestillo, vice-president for labor relations, described the company's offer as ''defensible'' but open to bargaining.
UAW began contract talks with GM and Ford on Jan. 11, making GM its principal target. When GM talks collapsed on Jan. 28, UAW turned to Ford.
Ford is expected to show a $1.1 billion loss for 1981. About 55,100 Ford employees are on indefinite layoffs; 25,325 others have been laid off temporarily.
Mr. Ephlin said last weekend that UAW cannot accept Ford's proposal as it stands. But UAW has not offered a counterproposal and, he added optimistically, one might not be necessary.
Among the concessions Ford is seeking are a freeze on cost-of-living wage adjustments until June 1983, one-week cuts in 4- or 5-week paid vacations, and forfeit of eight annual paid holidays.
In exchange, Ford offered to guarantee at least 50 percent of base pay for workers laid off after 15 years service, with the guarantee going higher for those with longer service.