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Delphi and UAW Close to Completing a Labor Deal

Delphi and the United Auto Workers are very close to completing a labor deal the U.S. auto-parts maker needs to complete its reorganization, two UAW sources said on Wednesday.

Top UAW leaders met on Tuesday with leaders of local units that represent Delphi's workers in the United States and told them to prepare for an announcement that could come at any time, said the two UAW officials who spoke on condition that they not be named.

The two sides, which have been in negotiations off and on since before Delphi filed for bankruptcy in October 2005, are "a lot closer than they ever have been," one source said.

"All we know is that they are on the verge of an agreement and to expect it at any day now," another said.

Both Delphi and a UAW spokesman declined to comment.

A Delphi settlement would remove a major uncertainty for GM, which begins its own contract talks with the UAW next month and is looking to reduce its parts acquisitions costs.

The Detroit Free Press reported on Wednesday that an agreement could be announced as early as Wednesday, citing hourly workers and people close to the negotiations.

Local union officials expect Delphi to call for a ratification vote before its annual two-week summer shutdown, which begins July 1, the newspaper reported.

Workers from several Delphi plants as well as people close to the talks said they expect a tentative agreement to offer cash payments, known as buy-downs, to workers in exchange for a lower hourly wage, the newspaper said.

The estimates for buy-downs range from $30,000 to $50,000, the newspaper said, adding that the buy-downs are intended to elicit support for a deal that could drop hourly workers' wages as low as $14 an hour from a current average of $27 to $28 per hour.

The Detroit News reported on Wednesday that UAW Vice President Cal Rapson and President Ron Gettelfinger told union officials in Detroit on Tuesday they hope to ratify a deal with Delphi before July 23, the start of contract talks between the UAW and Detroit's automakers.

Any deal has to be approved by a majority of UAW-represented workers at Delphi, many thousands of whom only began working for Delphi in the past year.

Delphi, GM and the auto-parts maker's two largest unions reached deals in 2006 that allowed 20,000 U.S. hourly workers to take early retirements or buyouts. Delphi's contracts allowed it to hire replacements at lower wages and benefits.

Gettelfinger and Rapson, who leads UAW's General Motors and Delphi departments, have scheduled an Internet discussion with UAW members on Friday.

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