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Twenty-four Hours and Counting at Chrysler

Tuesday, 9 Oct 2007 | 12:07 PM ET

Within the next 24 hours, we will know if Chrysler and the UAW have worked out a new contract or if the union is on strike. Unlike the GM talks two weeks ago, it's a little tougher to handicap the odds of a strike at the country's #4 automaker.

The union is seeking job and product guarantees similar to what it worked out with GM. This is something the owners of Chrysler (Cerberus Capital) are not crazy about. For starters, Chrysler lacks the pipeline to guarantee certain products at certain assembly plants.

Chrysler also wants the flexibility to downsize if need be in the future. Look at the company's latest job cut decision. Today the company decided it will cut an additional 1,500 white collar salaried positions. This is all part of the company's restructuring announced earlier this year.

For its part, Chrysler wants to put less cash, maybe even avoid establishing, into a VEBA fund the union will run. The UAW set up a VEBA with GM to handle member healthcare bills. But Chrysler's owners are all about cash flow. Writing a big check for a VEBA will slow down cash flow in the near future.

So the talks continue. The only thing for sure is that a strike at Chrysler would hurt, but not destroy the company. It would cost Chrysler about $50 million a day.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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