United Auto Workers President Gary Jones (left), and General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra shake hands to open contract negotiations.

General Motors’ top executive focused on the company’s future prospects, while a key executive from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. emphasized the need for continued cooperation as the two companies opened contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers.

“We look forward to having productive discussion about building a stronger future for our employees and business,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO.

“Our employees play a critical role in our success and I am very excited about the opportunities in front of us that will enable GM and he UAW to lead in the transformation of the auto industry,” said Barra, who has come under heavy criticism from UAW since last November when the GM announced it was ending production at four plants in the U.S.

Meanwhile at the opening of talks with Fiat Chrysler, Mark Stewart, FCA chief operating officer for North America, stressed that FCA was committed to a broad agenda that would address the future challenges facing the industry. “We have an ambitious plan,” he said.

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Jones and Mark Stewart, FCA COO for North America shake hands to start talks between the UAW and FCA.

FCA also has added 8,200 new jobs since the last contract was signed in 2015 and planning to build the first new assembly plant in the City of Detroit in more than three decades. The company’s future growth depends on the continued cooperation with the UAW.

“We want to find innovative ways to prepare for the future,” said Stewart, who also noted the company needed flexibility if wanted to continue make the job creating investments in plants where workers are represented by the UAW.

As he had at Ford earlier this week, UAW president Gary Jones told both GM and FCA during the official opening handshake, first at GM headquarters in Detroit and then FCA’s North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, that the union expects to make economic gains in the any contracts it might sign this fall.

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During the time leading up to the opening of talks, Jones and other UAW leaders have repeatedly pointed to the “record profits” that GM and Fiat Chrysler as well as Ford have put up during the four-year period of the expiring deal.

“My UAW brothers and sisters are ready to do whatever is necessary to get the contract that, in this time of record profits,” he noted during the ceremony at FCA.

The bargaining teams for the UAW and Fiat Chrysler look on as the handshake is completed in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

“UAW members have been the backbone of General Motors for more than 80 years,” Jones said earlier during the ceremony at GM.

“They believe in this company. Just as the UAW’s workers have been there for GM, our UAW bargaining team is charged with making sure that GM will be there for them.”

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The ceremonies mark the official start of bargaining on a new four-year agreement, which expires at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14.

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