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UAW sets strike deadline for Chrysler

DETROIT - If there was a script that automakers were supposed to follow for UAW contract talks, Chrysler seems to have overlooked it.

As negotiations continued Monday at Chrysler LLC's Auburn Hills headquarters, the United Auto Workers set a deadline of Wednesday morning to agree on a new contract or else workers could strike.

The deadline may be a tactic the union is using to squeeze some more concessions from the company. But it also may be that Chrysler isn't just going to agree to the same terms that General Motors Corp. did last week just because that's how it's traditionally done.

Chrysler's needs are different from GM's requirements, analysts said, so a deal requires cost cuts in different places.

The union may have set the strike deadline for its 49,000 hourly workers because of how far Chrysler bargainers want to go in demanding cost cuts.

'We think that they may be holding out for something more than GM got,' said Aaron Bragman, an industry analyst for the consulting firm Global Insight.

The UAW went on strike for nearly two days last month before coming to a tentative agreement with GM on Sept. 26. Workers with the nation's largest automaker are expected to wrap up voting on the agreement by Wednesday.

The union normally settles with one U.S. automaker and then uses that deal as a pattern for an agreement with the other two.

Among the differences this time, analysts say, are health care givebacks granted to GM and Ford Motor Co. in 2005 that Chrysler didn't get, worth approximately $340 million a year.

A person briefed on the negotiations said the two sides have not agreed on giving the same deal to Chrysler. The person requested anonymity because the talks are private.

Higher health care costs are one big reason why Chrysler pays its workers an average of $75.86 per hour in wages, pension and health care costs, the highest among the Detroit automakers.

Several analysts also said the company and union likely are apart on setting up a Chrysler-funded union-run trust that would take on the company's roughly $18 billion in retiree health care costs. Unlike GM, Chrysler also may be against giving specific job security promises by guaranteeing new cars and trucks will be built at U.S. factories, and it wants to hire out parts transportation rather than pay full UAW wages for it, the analysts said.