Labor negotiators for the United Auto Workers union and DaimlerChrysler AG said late tonight that they were close to an agreement to replace a three-year contract covering nearly 75,000 of the company's union workers.

The two sides said that they would work through the night in hopes of being able to announce a tentative new agreement sometime Thursday.

Negotiators have been at the table here for a week, working through the weekend and often into the wee hours of the morning, trying to fashion a contract that provides job security for workers and business security for the company in a brutally competitive global automotive industry.

What happens here also will likely affect more than 300,000 UAW-covered employees at General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., who are working under the same contract extension.

That is because DaimlerChrysler is the de facto "target" of the current talks. Historically, the bargaining target is used to set a template agreement with other automakers, which are urged to match the contract signed by the target company.

General Motors and Ford, of course, have held talks with the UAW, but those talks have moved at a much slower pace. At Ford, they seemed not to move at all. GM and Ford, officials say, have been waiting for the union to finish its business first at DaimlerChrysler.