Carter administration officials appeared to back away yesterday from a suggestion that the United Auto Workers union might have to renegotiate a contract with Chrysler Corp. in order to gain government guarantees for $1.5 billion of loans to the ailing auto manufacturer.
At the same time, both Treasury Secretary G. William Miller and administration inflation fighter Alfred Kahn indicated that some future UAW "sacrifice" may be necessary -- after legislation has been enacted and the Treasury is reviewing a specific Chrysler loan guarantee plan.
Kahn appeared to indicate some internal split in the administration on Saturday, when he charged that the UAW's proposed new contract with Chrysler was "outrageous" and inflationary, and that President Carter might deny federal loan guarantees if the contract is not revised.
In an interview yesterday, Kahn insisted that his comments on Saturday reflected "no difference of opinion among us on going ahead on a bill [in Congress] . . . I'm not in a position to contradict . . . it's up to Secretary Miller and possibly the Congress."
He added: "All I said was that the bill calls for major contributions by Chrysler stockholders, suppliers . . . and workers and that the contract clearly doesn't constitute sufficient sacrifice."
Providing aid to a failing corporation is an "unusual step . . . that's what causes inflation," said Kahn of the proposed loan guarantees and the UAW's contract providing workers with as much as 33 percent higher salaries after three years.
Kahn implied that the government could seek future concessions from the UAW once the legislation is approved. "I can't be precise," he stated, when asked about future UAW sacrifices. One thing that would not count is a guaranteed loan to Chrysler from UAW pension funds, he said. "I don't see any sacrifice in that."
But a step that might prove successful would be for the UAW to buy some Chrysler stock, "a stake" in the firm, Kahn said.
Separately, Miller said yesterday the administration is "not in any way discountinuing our support for the legislation," which he described as an "enabling process to carry out a plan."
Asked about Kahn's statements on Saturday, Miller at first was reluctant to talk. "That's a whole press conference," the secretary replied.
Pressed by a reporter to clear up any confusion over the Chrysler aid situation, Miller said that Kahn's Council on Wage and Price Stability has a responsibility "to determine compliance" with the administration's voluntary wage and price standards.
If, after a period of comments and replies, the UAW-Chrysler pact is found not to be in compliance, the administration would "have to take" that into account in determining a response to Chrysler loan guarantee requests, in view of the "concessions and sacrifices" required from all parties, including the union, Miller continued.
"Elements of the plan have to be resolved before we actually make a commitment for a guarantee," Miller asserted.
UAW President Douglas Fraser, in a statement issued in Costa Mesa, Calif., where the union's executive board was meeting yesterday said Kahn's indication of intent to notify the auto company and UAW of "probable non-compliance" with the wage standards "amounts to an irresponsible and inaccurate prejudgment of a contract that has not just been put before him."
Fraser said the UAW has "reason to believe the Kahn's clumsy attempts to link the loan guarantee for Chrysler to a renegotiation of the contract do not reflect administration policy . . ."
Restating his union's agreement to postpone $203 million of benefits and to defer $200 million of pension payments, Fraser said the proposed Chrysler contract is, "by any fair standard, in the public interest as well as the interest of the workers and the corporation."
A Chrysler spokesman said the company had not received a formal notice from Kahn's office as of yesterday afternoon and would have no comments on the anti-inflation chief's statements.
Chrysler's 130,000 unionized workers have been voting on the proposed contract and results may be announced on Wednesday.