-- A key United Auto Workers negotiator has told local union leaders that a strike against auto supplier Delphi Corp. "appears more likely than not," a UAW spokesman said Wednesday.
Delphi has been operating under bankruptcy protection and is seeking steep wage cuts from its hourly workers.
UAW spokesman Paul Krell said union Vice President Richard Shoemaker discussed the possibility of a strike with about 250 union leaders Tuesday at a closed-door meeting in Detroit.
According to Krell, Shoemaker said: "Under current circumstances, a strike appears more likely than not. That can change, and we hope it does."
Shoemaker didn't give a time frame when a strike might occur, Krell said.
Delphi spokeswoman Claudia Piccinin said Wednesday that the company is hoping to avoid a strike.
"We're going to continue on with our discussions with the unions toward a consensual restructuring plan, and that's where our focus is right now," she said. "We think a strike would not benefit any parties."
Delphi chairman and chief executive Robert S. Miller Jr. has repeatedly said that a strike isn't in the workers' best interest and that he believes a strike can be avoided.
Delphi, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in October, has asked its unions to agree to cut hourly workers' wages from $27 an hour to between $10 and $12.50. Delphi says those wages are competitive with other union and non-union suppliers.
Delphi said last week that it is making progress in talks with its former parent, General Motors Corp., on a plan that could soften the blow for Delphi's hourly workers. No details were given, but analysts suggested that GM may provide cash for Delphi employee buyouts or agree to allow Delphi workers to flow back to GM, the world's biggest automaker.
Because of those talks, Delphi delayed a plan to ask a bankruptcy court judge on Dec. 16 to void its union contracts, an action that could lead to a strike. Delphi now says it could ask the judge to void its contracts on Jan. 20.
In a news conference Tuesday, UAW President Ronald A. Gettelfinger said he hasn't taken part in the discussions between GM and Delphi and won't restart talks with Delphi until the company takes its current wage offer off the table.
"The last proposal that Delphi presented to this union is a road map to confrontation," Gettelfinger said.
A strike could be devastating to Delphi as well as GM, which relies on Delphi for billions of dollars' worth of parts. GM spent $14 billion on Delphi parts last year, or about 16 percent of its total spending on parts.