German train drivers shelve strike action

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German train drivers shelved strike action threatened for Monday after inching closer to an agreement with the state-owned rail company, Deutsche Bahn.

7 January 2008

Berlin (dpa) - German train drivers shelved strike action threatened for Monday after inching closer to an agreement with the state-owned rail company Deutsche Bahn.

A spokesman for the GDL union said the two sides would meet again on Tuesday, following six hours of talks at an undisclosed location and a later meeting at the ministry of transport in Berlin.

The GDL union had threatened to call out its 15,000 members and bring passenger and freight services to a halt if no agreement to end the long-running dispute over pay and conditions was in sight by Jan. 7.

Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, who brought the two sides together on Dec. 22 after the GDL had walked out of earlier negotiations, said there was willingness by both parties to reach a deal as quickly as possible.

He said the two sides had made "enormous progress" on their key points of difference but the issue of pay remained a major sticking point.

The GDL has staged a series of strikes since July to press their demands for a hefty pay rise and a new contract, hitting commuter and freight traffic particularly hard.

Deutsche Bahn offered the union an increase of at least 8 percent, but temporarily withdrew the offer after the GDL walkout. The union scaled back its original demand from 31 percent to 10 percent.

Rail workers represented by two other unions have already accepted a raise of 4.5 percent.

GDL chairman Manfred Schell, his deputy, Claus Weselsky, and Deutsche Bahn human resources director Marget Suckale took part in Saturday's negotiations with Tiefensee.

Schell said after the meeting that his union was keeping its strike options open. But he said progress achieved in the negotiations indicated a deal could be struck by the end of January.

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