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Strikes threatened today at plants in Michigan and Indiana could shut down most of Chrysler Corp.'s assembly operations and put a big dent in General Motors Corp.'s ability to build pickup trucks.

United Auto Workers union locals representing hourly employees at Chrysler's automatic transmission plant in Kokomo, Ind., and at GM's truck plant in Pontiac, Mich., set morning deadlines for agreements to head off walkouts.

The official topic for negotiations at Kokomo is unspecified health and safety issues. But sources close to the situation, who spoke on condition they not be identified, said the talks have focused on Chrysler's plans to produce a new generation of truck transmissions late in the decade.

Peace seemed less likely between GM and Local 594, which represents 5,500 workers at the Pontiac East truck plant and an associated engineering center. About one-third of GM's fast-selling full-size Chevrolet and GMC pickups are built there.

Local 594 wants the company to add jobs at the plant for 1,500 workers whose positions were eliminated when GM closed its Pontiac West truck assembly plant in December.

About 300 workers from the closed plant were hired in January to staff a third shift in paint and body shops at Pontiac East. The remaining 1,500 have "protected" status under the UAW contract and continue to receive full pay.

GM would like to persuade them to transfer to plants.

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