The head of the United Auto Workers union on Monday said that a strike against the struggling U.S. auto industry remains a possibility should workers be unable to agree on terms with the three Detroit-based automakers in contract talks starting this week.

A strike remains a possibility, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in response to a question from a reporter.

Gettelfinger and General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Rick Wagoner shook hands at GM's negotiating headquarters in a staged event Monday morning to mark the formal start of talks which have actually been underway on an informal basis with Detroit's traditional Big Three for weeks.

The UAW's current four-year contract expires September 14. The formally union kicks off talks with Ford Motor Co on Monday afternoon. It began formal talks with Chrysler Group, which is now owned by DaimlerChrysler AG but is being acquired by Cerberus Capital Management, on Friday.

(Reporting by Kevin Krolicki)