The United Auto Workers union has ratified its 4-year labor agreement with Ford Motor Co. with 79% of those who cast ballots voicing approval.

The auto maker joins the UAW today in announcing finalization of the milestone deal, which mirrors those already negotiated at General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC. The contract offloads health-care benefit costs to an independent, union-administered fund and establishes a lower wage tier for new hires whose jobs are not directly connected with vehicle assembly.

“We are pleased that our employees have voted to accept and finalize our new collective bargaining agreement,” Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally says in a statement. “This agreement is proof that by working together with our UAW partners, it is possible to find solutions that collectively benefit our employees, retirees and the company. This contract will provide significant opportunities for the company’s long-term competitiveness, and that is good for all of us.”

The deal, reached Nov. 3, covers about 54,000 Ford employees, 94,000 retirees and 28,000 surviving spouses. Production workers voted 81% in favor, while the approval margin for skilled-trades personnel was 79%

“Our bargaining team negotiated a contract that protects wages, benefits and seniority for our active members and provides income and health-care security for our retired members,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger says in a statement.

“We stood our ground in the face of some rather big asks by the company and came away with a creative agreement that addresses the concerns of our members, and also gives the company the opportunity to move forward. Now it’s up to Ford to successfully bring to market the top-quality vehicles our members are building in UAW Ford factories.”

Adds UAW Vice President Bob King: “We obtained solid commitments from the company to keep plants open and to invest in UAW members and union-made products here in the United States. That means job security for our members, which was a top priority for us.”

Several plants reportedly were in danger of closing if Ford did not win concessions from the union to help defray its costs. The auto maker also has committed to investing heavily in five plants.