General Motors and the Canadian Auto Workers are scheduled to negotiate around the clock today, the Detroit News said, adding that both sides were optimistic they would reach a new labour contract covering 18,700 GM workers before a midnight strike deadline tonight.

CAW leaders yesterday told the newspaper that the two sides remained divided on annual pay raises, cost-of-living adjustments and income security for thousands of laid off workers at GM plants in St. Catharines, Ontario, and Ste. Therese, Quebec.

The Detroit News said the talks would have an impact far beyond Canada with the terms and conditions gained by the CAW likely to be a starting point for UAW negotiations that begin in 2003.

On Monday, the CAW told the Detroit News that most bargaining issues covering work rules at GM's Windsor transmission plant had been settled, with local issues at its massive Oshawa, Ontario, car and truck plants still on the table.

Toronto-based auto analyst Felix Pilorusso told the Detroit News that the CAW would likely settle in short order with GM, select DaimlerChrysler as its next target and then isolate Ford as its third target.

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