TORONTO (CP) -- In an unprecedented move toward ensuring stability in a volatile industry, Ford Motor Company of Canada and 9,000 members of the Canadian Auto Workers Union reached a three-year tentative agreement Thursday, four months ahead of schedule.
CAW president Buzz Hargrove said the agreement covered all local and national issues and should ease the anxiety many of his members have been feeling as the U.S. economy slows and auto sales sag.
''I'm absolutely thrilled,'' Hargrove said in an interview minutes after the deal was finalized.
In a statement, Ford said being competitive in the long term was ''critical'' to the company and in the best interest of its employees.
It described the agreement as ''innovative.''
Ratification of the proposed deal is set for Sunday.
While complete details of the deal were to be released at a joint news conference on Friday morning, the CAW announced earlier this week that the proposed contract would freeze base wages over its lifetime.
The agreement also called for Ford's assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ont., to stay in operation until at least September 2011, when the contract would expire, instead of the previously scheduled end in 2010.
The agreement comes more than four months before the current contract is due to expire and avoids the kind of labor unrest that has characterized previous rounds of bargaining.
Hargrove said his members have been extremely worried about the future, prompting the union to secure an agreement quickly.
''That's what drove us -- the anxiety and insecurity of our members about where this is all going in the fall,'' Hargrove said.
''Ford was willing and open and they stepped up to the plate. We've got a good agreement here for both Ford and for our union.''
However auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers called the deal ''short-term gain for long-term pain.''
''I don't like the contract at all,'' DesRosiers wrote in an e-mail.
''Ford had an opportunity to fundamentally address their core competitiveness in Canada and choose not to. Critical issues still remain which will not be address for another three years.''
The union will now turn its attention to getting similar deals done with GM and Chrysler, but Hargrove said he expected smooth sailing.
''This is the 2008 pattern (and) I don't anticipate any problem with Chrysler and GM accepting the pattern,'' he said.
''The cloth is cut. We've got to piece the cloth together, but generally it's done.''
Chrysler said it was evaluating the agreement.
The national framework deal also provides for cost-of-living adjustments starting at the end of next year, along with a bonus of $2,200 to be paid on ratification.
Workers will also lose 40 hours of vacation a year, but will get $3,500 cash in January to compensate.