TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Delphi’s ongoing labor dispute could spell big trouble for General Motors’ Powertrain plant in Tonawanda.

The future of workers at both the Tonawanda GM and Lockport Delphi plants could hinge on the success of current labor talks between Delphi, GM and the United Auto Workers, the union that represents workers at both plants.

The auto supplier has set a deadline of today for the talks. If no resolution is reached, Delphi CEO Steve Miller has said he’ll ask a bankruptcy judge to void the company’s union contracts. Delphi says it needs to reduce its labor costs to remain competitive, but the UAW and other unions representing workers have threatened to go on strike if the contracts are thrown out.

An impending strike by Delphi workers, the largest parts supplier to GM, may throw a wrench in GM’s own cost-saving efforts.

In early February, GM announced several plans to make itself more competitive and flexible on a global scale. Plans included reduction in salaries for company heads, restructuring of stockholder benefits and a restructuring of salaried health care benefits for current and retired workers. These changes were implemented in an effort to save the company almost $6 billion in structural costs.

Similar talks between GM and the union happened last year, resulting in workers making concessions regarding health care. Their full contract expires next year and the outcome of the Delphi situation could have a large impact on negotiations in 2007.

Representatives from the plant would not discuss the Delphi negotiations.

“We can’t predict future events,” Mary Ann Brown, a spokeswoman at the Tonawanda plant, said. “We cannot comment on future events.”

Karla Coleman, communication manager at Powertrain, offered similar comments when asked about the possible impact at the Tonawanda plant.

“We’re not going to speculate,” she said. Coleman also would not comment on the progress of labor talks.

Employees at the Powertrain plant could not offer solid predictions either.

Bob Wilbert, owner of Townline Inn near the Powertrain plant said employees are uncertain of what’s happening because they don’t get accurate information.

“I know from listening to patrons that everything they hear is hearsay, second-hand information, guessing and rumors,” he said. “It’s been like that for the past two or three years.”

One Powertrain employee did make a prediction.

“If they (give big bonuses to the Delphi executives) then say ‘You have to work for $12,’ workers have to say, ‘We have to take a stand,’” said Paul Klein, a team leader on the assembly line at the Powertrain. “They’re cutting workers’ salaries in half.”

Klein said GM employees just have to wait and see what happens with Delphi negotiations.

“Until Delphi has a definitive answer, it’s all speculation. If they don’t strike, we’ll continue to get our parts and things will go accordingly,” he said. “People here do their job and work hard. Ninety-nine percent of the workers realize this is their livelihood and things like this could happen. If Delphi strikes, we know production’s going down.”

Contact Katharine Kirchmeyer at 693-1000, Ext. 113. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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