Canadian employees with Ford have ratified a new contract.

The Canadian Auto Workers said 82 per cent of its members voted to accept the new deal that was finalized last week.

A union spokesperson indicated that of its 4,500 members employed by Ford, 3,000 cast ballots in the ratification votes that took place in Hamilton, Windsor and Brampton, Ont. on Saturday and Sunday.

The new contract was endorsed by the union leadership last week and will create new employment opportunities for hundreds of laid-off workers and provide cost of living lump-sum payments.

In a news release issued on Sunday, the CAW said the Ford agreement serves as a model for contract bargaining with General Motors and Chrysler.

"Our members at Ford recognize that in these uncertain economic times, some of the most important elements of a new collective agreement are future investment and improved job security," said CAW president Ken Lewenza.

"This new agreement will ensure that our facilities are well-positioned for a strong future in the North American auto industry."

The agreement with Ford was reached on Sept. 17.

The union hammered out a tentative contract with General Motors on Sept. 20. Members are scheduled to vote on the new deal on Wednesday and Thursday.

Meanwhile, talks between the union and Chrysler are ongoing. As deals with the Big Three expired a week ago, the union is in a legal strike position. Union leadership has said it will give 24 hours’ notice if talks break down and workers intend to walk off the job.

Chrysler is the last of the Big Three North American automakers that has yet to reach a deal with CAW.

The union said talks are to resume on Monday and it is hoping to reach a deal sometime this week.

The CAW represents 21,000 workers at Big Three North American automakers.

One of the key points of contention between the union and the automakers was salaries. The automakers wanted permanent lower wages for new hires. In the end, the new Ford contract allows new employees to reach the pay grade of senior colleagues in 10 years, rather than the six years stipulated in the previous contract.

Base wages remain frozen throughout the term of the contract, with lump-sum, cost-of-living increases of $2,000 in the first three years.

In a statement issued Sunday evening, Ford said the contract will create 600 new jobs over the course of the deal at the company’s Oakville, Ont. assembly plant. Approximately 35 new jobs will be created at the company’s Windsor, Ont. facility.

"By becoming more competitive in our labour costs, we are better positioned to support the growth of the Canadian economy and to provide new job opportunities," Stacey Allerton, vice president of human resources at Ford of Canada and the company's lead labour negotiator, said in a statement.

"For every auto job in Canada, multiple supporting jobs are created, and both the company and our employees view that opportunity and responsibility very seriously.”