Union, General Motors confident they can reach contract deal

UAW President Dennis Williams, second left, speaks as, from left, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, United Auto Workers Vice President Cindy Estrada, and GM Vice President Cathy Clegg, listen during a ceremony to mark the opening of contract negotiations Monday, July 13, 2015, in Detroit. This year's talks are expected to be the toughest in recent memory. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
UAW President Dennis Williams, second left, speaks as, from left, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, United Auto Workers Vice President Cindy Estrada, and GM Vice President Cathy Clegg, listen during a ceremony to mark the opening of contract negotiations Monday, July 13, 2015, in Detroit. This year's talks are expected to be the toughest in recent memory. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

ETROIT (AP) – It was all smiles and optimism Monday as the United Auto Workers union opened contract talks in an official handshake ceremony with General Motors.

But the glad-handing may not last long. GM and Ford want to cut labor costs that are $8 to $9 per hour higher than U.S. plants owned by Honda and Toyota. Fiat Chrysler wants to keep its costs stable. The union also wants pay raises for longtime workers and an end to lower pay for entry-level workers.Right now, long-time employees are making $29 an hour, while entry-level workers earn $19.

The UAW agreed to the two-tiered system in 2007, when the company was struggling financially.

Despite the differences, union officials and GM executives said they were confident at a Monday ceremony that they could negotiate a deal that will make both sides happy.

The union’s contracts with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler expire Sept. 14.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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