Hearing is critical for Delphi workers

May 09, 2006|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON -- The fates of thousands of workers, General Motors Corp. and Michigan's economy hang in the balance today as Delphi Corp. presents its case in bankruptcy court for canceling its union contracts.

Delphi, the UAW and four other unions will face off in front of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain at hearings scheduled for today and tomorrow. Drain isn't expected to rule on Delphi's request this week, but if he issues a ruling, he can only give a yes-or-no answer.

Delphi Chairman Robert S. Miller Jr. contends that the only way for the auto-parts maker to survive is by cutting 23,000 U.S. workers, including 10,000 in Michigan, and slashing wages and benefits for however many of its 33,000 U.S. workers remain. The company also wants to cut much of its $10.7 billion in obligations to hourly retirees.

"The undisputed facts are that Delphi cannot compete under restrictive terms and the extraordinarily high wages and benefits that the unions' employees currently enjoy," Delphi said in a court filing last week.

The UAW and other unions contend Delphi has not spent enough time trying to reach an agreement outside of court. The UAW has asked members to vote by Sunday on allowing the union to strike Delphi. A strike likely would not happen until after the judge makes a decision.

The move is part of Delphi's strategy "to eliminate nearly three-quarters of its UAW-represented hourly work force, extract deep concessions from the rest, and turn Delphi into a low-cost, foreign-based producer of auto parts by force," the union told the court last month.

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