General Motors Sees Hope In Chrysler Deal

Chief Executive Fritz Henderson said some elements of a labor agreement between the United Auto Workers and Chrysler could benefit GM as it tries to stave off bankruptcy.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Fritz Henderson said Tuesday some elements of a labor agreement between the United Auto Workers and Chrysler LLC could benefit GM as it tries to stave off bankruptcy.

Henderson told reporters he was ready to resume bargaining with the union. The concessions sought by GM are likely to follow along the lines of those reached with Chrysler last week.

"As I look at the Chrysler deal, certain things within that Chrysler deal definitely can help us," Henderson said.

The Chrysler labor deal calls for the UAW to take a 55 percent stake in a new Chrysler in exchange for $6 billion of the $10.6 billion the company must pay into a union-run trust that will take over retiree health care expenses starting next year. The union's stake in GM is expected to be just under 40 percent.

The UAW, in a letter to U.S. senators on Tuesday, said it objected to GM's most recent restructuring plan that calls for closing 16 manufacturing facilities and cutting 21,000 jobs because it would shift manufacturing to Mexico, South Korea, Japan and China.

"GM should not be taking taxpayers' money simply to finance the outsourcing of jobs to other countries," wrote UAW legislative director Alan Reuther.

Henderson said he would try to find common ground with the UAW at the bargaining table.

"We need to be open to what their concerns are. At the same time our goal is to make sure that General Motors is viable and competitive," he said.

Henderson briefed members of Congress on GM's work to avoid bankruptcy and restructure the company hard hit by recession and the steep drop in auto sales. GM has been living on $15.4 billion in U.S. government loans and faces a June 1 government deadline to finish restructuring or be forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

House members emerging from the meetings said Henderson answered questions about their concerns for workers, dealers and the protection of health care and pension benefits for retirees.

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., said Henderson told them that "no final decision" had been made on the various concessions sought from the UAW in regard to plant closings and job reductions. "They're going to talk about all of these issues," Levin said.

Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection last week and is attempting to emerge in 30 to 60 days as a stronger company that could end up with Italy's Fiat Group SpA as the majority owner.

Henderson said the two companies face different circumstances but GM was watching the proceedings closely.

"I believe in learning and paying attention to what's happening and that's what we're doing," he said.

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