DETROIT – Chrysler LLC and the United Auto Workers union were negotiating a new labor agreement on Wednesday hours before a union-imposed strike deadline.
The negotiations follow a watershed deal last month between the union and General Motors Corp. allowing the No. 1 U.S. automaker to hire lower-cost workers and step away from a $50-billion obligation to pay for retiree health care.
Here are five facts about the negotiations between Chrysler and the UAW, the second stage in a round of contract talks seen as crucial to the turnaround efforts of the troubled U.S. auto industry:
-The UAW's past contract with Chrysler expired at 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The union has told its local bargaining units to organize pickets unless negotiators in Detroit call off a strike scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
-Chrysler, now owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, is looking to cut its hourly labor costs, which rank as the highest in the industry. Chrysler puts its average cost of paying wages and benefits to a UAW-represented worker at $76 per hour, compared with $48 for industry-leader Toyota Motor Corp.
-Under Cerberus, Chrysler is focused on cash flow and has looked to shed assets, including parts and trucking operations. For its part, the UAW has indicated it wants to see job security guarantees linked to Chrysler's commitment to U.S. production over the next four years.
-A UAW strike against Chrysler would idle operations at 25 major plants in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri. A strike also has the potential to shutter production at the automaker's facilities in Canada and Mexico as parts shortages develop.
-Chrysler had a 71-day supply of vehicles in inventory at end-September, seen as enough to ride out a strike of several weeks. Analysts have said dealers could start to run out of newer and more popular models more quickly, including the Jeep Wrangler and Chrysler's just-launched minivans.