Talks between the UAW and the Big Three heated up on Wednesday as they worked to hammer out a new labour contract agreement ahead of a weekend deadline, according to Reuters.

Union and company sources have told the news agency that Ron Gettelfinger, who has tried to give the UAW a less contentious image since he assumed its presidency last year, has pulled out all the stops in a bid to become the first UAW boss to strike a deal with all three companies ahead of schedule.

However, Reuters noted that the four-year contracts with GM, Ford and Chrysler expire at midnight on Sunday, and Gettelfinger may be running out of time as he moves to highlight the UAW's newfound sense of pragmatism by winning an agreement palatable to both labour and management with record speed.

According to Reuters, in a research note early on Wednesday, analyst Stephen Girsky of Morgan Stanley said he believed outstanding issues in the talks "can be settled in one or two days" but he said the UAW may only clinch a deal with one company before the contracts expire.

Union sources told Reuters that, if no contract is agreed by the deadline, union sources say the old contracts could be extended on a provisional basis though the expiration would open the door to a possible strike.

Reuters said that the labour talks, which affect more than 772,000 current and retired workers and their spouses, are being held against a grim backdrop in Detroit, whose car makers have lost billions of dollars in the market over the last two years and have also continued to lose share as was underscored by Toyota outselling Chrysler for the first time in the US market in August.

Noting that Gettelfinger has vowed that generous heath care benefits are untouchable at the bargaining table, Reuters said analysts say he has moved toward common ground in some areas and agreed to restructuring at the car makers that will clear the way toward thousands of job cuts through plant closings, buyouts, attrition and outsourcing of some work to low-wage parts suppliers.

In return, Reuters added, the UAW has persuaded the car makers to help boost its flagging membership by supporting organising drives at non-union automotive parts suppliers.

Reuters said company and union officials declined to comment Wednesday on reports that Gettelfinger had taken a lead role in negotiations with financially troubled Chrysler, where the talks have become especially difficult.