General Motors on Thursday became the second major US vehicle maker in as many days to begin contract talks with the United Auto Workers, according to Associated Press (AP).

UAW president Ron Gettelfinger and GM chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner shook hands and smiled Thursday afternoon in Detroit just as Gettelfinger and Chrysler chief Dieter Zetsche had done a day earlier in Auburn Hills, where DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group is based, AP said.

The union was scheduled to start negotiations with Ford on Friday, AP added.

The news agency said automotive suppliers Delphi Corporation and Visteon Corporation also are involved in negotiations, which both sides predict will be difficult.

According to AP, the companies and the UAW will spend the next couple of months hammering out contracts covering wages and benefits for more than 300,000 workers.

The pacts also cover pension payments and benefits for another 475,000 retirees and their spouses and the current contracts expire on September 14, Associated Press added.