updated 1/23/2007 8:38:22 AM ET 2007-01-23T13:38:22

Detroit auto makers and the United Auto Workers are examining a plan that would shift to the union the responsibility for tens of billions of dollars in retiree health-care liabilities, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The preliminary discussions highlight the determination of the UAW and the auto makers to find a way to restructure the auto industry without resorting to bankruptcy-court protection, the Journal said.

General Motors Corp. has hired advisers who worked on a similar deal between the United Steelworkers and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. last month.

GM is looking at “a number of health-care options,” but declined to be more specific, the Journal quoted a spokeswoman as saying. GM officials could not be reached.

UAW officials also could not be reached for comment.

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