General Motors' new boss Dan Akerson sent his first letter to staff on Thursday, saying he valued the role of organized labor in the company's success as GM heads into negotiations with its union-represented U.S. workers next year.

Akerson, 61, is the fourth CEO the automaker has had in the last 18 months. He took over on Wednesday from Ed Whitacre, who resigned after telling the GM board last month he did not want to stay on the job long-term.

GM in Akerson's first year will have the difficult task of drumming up investor support for its planned initial public offering while also getting ready to renegotiate its contract with the United Auto Workers which expires next year.

Akerson's letter was posted on internal GM websites and sent to its plants around the world. A copy of the five-paragraph letter was obtained by Reuters.

Akerson said in the letter that he recently met with the new president of the UAW, Bob King.

We agreed that, while we will not always see eye-to-eye on everything, GM will succeed to the extent that management and labor work together, wrote Akerson. I believe very deeply in that.

The current four-year contract between GM and its UAW-represented workers expires September 14, 2011. GM and the UAW reached an agreement on the contract in September 2007 after a two-day strike.

Detroit-based GM has about 53,000 UAW-represented hourly wage workers, down from 73,000 in 2007 when it last negotiated a contract. That was before GM went through bankruptcy and shed four of its eight brands. Active GM brands remaining are Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.

Of course, labor's role in building up this nation and others is well recognized and rightly so, Akerson's letter to GM's workers says. And, coming from a union family, I know on a very personal level the good things that unions can do.

Akerson did not elaborate on his family's union connections.

Like his predecessor Whitacre, Akerson is a former telecommunications executive with no heavy manufacturing executive experience. He was appointed to the GM board by the U.S. Treasury in July 2009.

GM has about 208,000 employees worldwide, including salaried and hourly wage workers.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall, editing by Matthew Lewis)