New contract ends Deere labor dispute

Deere & Co. workers returned to work early yesterday after ending a five-month work stoppage by ratifying a new contract. The contract contains no pay raises but increases job security. The dispute between the farm-equipment maker and the United Auto Workers (UAW) idled 12,000 workers at 13 plants in Iowa and Illinois, and was the longest work stoppage in the company's history.

At least three-quarters of UAW members who voted in Sunday's ratification poll supported the pact, says UAW vice-president Bill Casstevens.

At least two locals voted against the contract, under which Deere has committed $14.4 million to ensure employment for at least 90 percent of those working at Deere plants, says union spokesman Karl Mantyla. Layoffs of more than 10 percent of the work force would not be allowed until the money ran out, he says.

The agreement, reached Tuesday by negotiators, provides for cost-of-living increases and ``major improvements'' in pension plans, Mr. Mantyla says.

Workers will also receive a $735 one-time payment, as a settlement bonus and to compensate for missed holiday pay, officials say.

``I think everybody, company and union, are pleased that the long struggle is over, that there was an equitable settlement,'' Mantyla says.

Deere spokesman Robert Shoup says the company ``shares the relief that will most certainly be felt within the communities where we have factories.''

``We now look forward to turning our full attention to getting back to the business of manufacturing and marketing our products,'' he says.

The dispute began Aug. 23, when the UAW struck three plants after its 3-year contract expired. The company responded by locking out workers at 10 other plants, idling 12,300 workers overall.

Sunday was the labor dispute's 163rd day, surpassing the 110-day previous record from 1950.

The work stoppage also affected union members at Deere parts depots in Illinois, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, and Tennessee.

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