As the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, MI, wind down Friday afternoon, union activists downstate will be preparing picket signs for a demonstration from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Delphi Corp. headquarters in Troy, MI.

The supplier, as part of its Oct. 8 bankruptcy filing, is attempting to nullify its labor contracts with U.S. hourly employees and impose significant wage cuts. Delphi management says high hourly wages paid to United Auto Workers and other unions have made the supplier wholly uncompetitive.

The Soldiers of Solidarity, a splinter group within the UAW, has been protesting wage and benefit cuts, which are being considered as part of the bankruptcy case.

“Support Delphi workers, stop wage cuts, preserve benefits,” says an invitation to join the Aug. 11 informational picket. “We’ve done our share. Now it’s management’s turn.”

Some 12,600 Delphi employees – about half the company’s 27,500 hourly workforce in the U.S. – have accepted buyouts for early retirement as part of Delphi’s restructuring.

The protest Friday will occur the same day as a bankruptcy court hearing in New York at which Delphi attorneys will argue in favor of rejecting collective bargaining agreements with labor unions and to scale back retiree life-insurance and medical benefits.

The UAW has considered a strike at Delphi facilities since the October bankruptcy filing, while negotiations continue between the parties and former parent General Motors Corp.

Delphi reported a net loss of $2.4 billion in 2005, due to a “substantial reduction” in GM’s North American vehicle production, coupled with increased commodity costs.

Delphi also says it contributed $635 million to its U.S. pension plans in 2005. The company says the U.S. pension plan was under-funded in the amount of $4.1 billion, as of Dec. 31.

The Soldiers of Solidarity say Delphi employees are fearful they will lose their pensions, and they are angry that Delphi executives remain eligible for significant bonuses, despite the company’s financial predicament.

“End bonuses for Delphi executives until pensions are fully funded,” the protest invitation says. “Delphi executives should be arrested, not rewarded.”

Delphi is preparing to close or sell 25 of its 33 U.S. plants in an attempt to reduce operating costs. The company has said it needs to cut expenses to avoid losing $8.1 billion through 2010.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com