The United Auto Workers (UAW) has agreed to three days of contract negotiations with General Motors beginning Jan. 26 in an effort to cut labor costs and thereby substantially lower car prices.
The union also will reopen suspended bargaining talks with Ford Motor Company on Jan. 29 with no deadline.
The decision to give the GM negotiations a ''final, final'' chance came Jan. 23 when local union representatives on the UAW's GM council voted to authorize further talks. Douglas A. Fraser, UAW president, and the union's executive board had recommended further talks, but with a three-day deadline, saying, ''We don't want to prolong this.''
The tense, three-hour meeting in Washington became a debate on union ''giveaways'' to GM - concessions that could go as high as $5 an hour. Union leaders defended a tradeoff of some contract provisions for greater job security.
Dissidents angrily opposed concessions. As one dissident leader said ominously, ''I think they'll have one heck of a time getting a concession package passed.''
The UAW-GM talks last broke off Jan. 20. UAW negotiators called concessions sought by GM ''outrageous and unacceptable'' considering the company's 1981 profits and dividends to stockholders.
GM wants a new three-year contract beginning Sept. 14, 1982, when the current agreement expires. UAW wants one-year pact. The union also demands guarantees that work on components that go into GM cars will be done in GM plants, not farmed out to nonunion or foreign firms.
There will be no strike if the three-day talks produce no agreement. Terms of the present contract will remain in effect.