FCA US chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne addresses the audience, as UAW president Dennis Williams looks on, during a ceremony to officially open negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in Detroit

FCA US chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne addresses the audience, as UAW president Dennis Williams looks on, during a ceremony to officially open negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in Detroit

FCA US and the UAW have officially opened negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement for 39,000 hourly employees with a ceremonial handshake at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in Detroit.

FCA US chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne and FCA North America vice president - employee relations Glenn Shagena were joined by UAW president Dennis Williams and vice president Norwood Jewell and 30 members of the bargaining team, to mark the occasion.

"FCA US and the UAW have a long standing partnership that has a proven track record of being able to overcome challenges when faced with adversity," said Marchionne. "There is a great deal of mutual respect between us, and I am confident that we have the right leadership and the right teams in place to negotiate a long-term, responsible agreement."

As the two sides met in 2011, FCA US, formerly Chrysler Group, was in the process of recovering from restructuring. With the support of the UAW, the 2011 agreement allowed the company to further rebuild and grow the business, FCA said.

"As a result, FCA US has invested more than US$5.7bn in its US facilities and hired nearly 15,000 hourly employees by keeping labour costs competitive. As a result, production at US vehicle assembly plants has increased from 1.2m units in 2011 to 1.7m units in 2014. In June, the company extended its US sales streak of year over year sales gains to 63 consecutive months," the automaker said in a statement.

"Our UAW members are an integral part of the success of FCA US, and they need to participate in the economic well-being of the company," said Marchionne. "It is important that we effectively come up with a compensation plan that allows union members to participate in the profit generation based on performance, while allowing us to maintain a competitive cost structure in a downturn."

"We go into bargaining with a desire to recognise and reward our employees for their hard work and dedication," said Shagena. "This agreement affords both parties an opportunity to protect and secure the future competitiveness of FCA US by maintaining a cost structure that allows us to continue to provide good, well paying jobs."

Shagena and Marchionne stressed the importance of remembering the painful restructuring, learning lessons from that experience and not repeating history.

"We cannot afford to be bound by convention in our quest. If we insist on going back to the antagonistic type of bargaining that was once typical of the industry, it will be disastrous," said Marchionne. "If we agree on a future that calls for our shared responsibility, I believe we can come to an agreement that allows us to continue on the road we have travelled so far."

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