updated 4/3/2006 4:53:56 PM ET 2006-04-03T20:53:56

The chairman and chief executive of Delphi Corp. said Monday that he is confident the troubled auto parts supplier will avoid a strike that would devastate General Motors Corp., Delphi’s former parent and largest customer.

Speaking to the Detroit Economic Club, Robert S. “Steve” Miller said the bankruptcy court motion the company filed Friday, asking a judge to void its labor contracts, was “an insurance policy” he hoped the company would not have to use.

The United Auto Workers has warned that a long strike would be inevitable if the judge agrees to void the contracts and Delphi imposes its most recent proposal, which would have lowered wages from $27 to $22 through 2007, and then to $16.50. The offer was rejected by the UAW and other unions.

Asked after the speech whether Delphi would be able to avoid a strike, Miller answered: “Absolutely.”

“We are determined to work this out,” he told reporters on his way out the door.

In his speech, Miller said the motion in bankruptcy court was not the “nuclear button” some have portrayed it to be. He noted that hearings on the motion are scheduled for May 9 and a ruling from the judge is not expected until early June.

“We’ve got a couple of months to work things out,” he said.

Even if the judge approves the request, Delphi might not act unilaterally if it believes an agreement is possible, he said.

“We are not leaving the negotiating table, and I hope no one else does either,” he said. “We are in good-faith discussions with our unions, but we cannot just keep talking and losing money indefinitely.”

Miller, who has overseen restructurings at companies such as Bethlehem Steel Co. and Morrison Knudson Corp., said the first half of 2007 was a realistic target for Delphi’s emergence from bankruptcy.

In addition to asking the judge to void its contracts, Delphi on Friday also announced plans to cut 8,500 salaried jobs and close or sell 21 of its 29 U.S. plants.

As Miller spoke Monday at Detroit’s Masonic Temple, the workers’ group Soldiers of Solidarity held a protest outside. About 50 people carried signs and chanted slogans like “Steve Miller/Dream killer” and “Not one dollar, not one dime/Cutting wages is a crime.”

“It’s a sad day for the Delphi workers that our plants are being closed,” said Jonell Sayles, a 53-year-old who has worked at a Delphi plant in Flint for 30 years. “We’re out here today to send a message to the world and our co-workers that somebody is trying to make a difference.”

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