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Deutsche Bahn renews calls to negotiate after drivers' union threatens strike

Germany's rail operator Deutsche Bahn has offered to negotiate with representatives of the train drivers' union GDL. The union has threatened to strike this week, causing severe disruptions in train schedules.

Germany's Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt and Deutsche Bahn (DB) said they were ready to negotiate again with the train drivers' union GDL.

"A solution to this conflict would be possible only at the negotiating table," Dobrindt told the Bild newspaper in an interview published on Monday, adding that discussions were urgent, so that there was no "excessive pressure on public acceptance for salary disputes."

GDL representatives declared discussions with DB a failure last week, after which union chief Claus Weselsky announced more train strikes in the coming days. There was however no information on when these strikes would begin and how long they would last.

Commuters would be informed at least 24 hours before the union decided to stop work, as was done before, Weselsky said.

The GDL and DB had been very close to reaching an agreement when they spoke last week, DB's chief human resources officer Ulrich Weber said, urging the union to participate in further discussions. "I do not understand why the GDL is jeopardizing its own success," Weber told the Bild newspaper on Sunday.

The GDL union is demanding a 5-percent pay raise and one hour shaved off its members' work weeks. They also want the right to negotiate on behalf of all on-board personnel, as opposed to just train drivers and engineers.

Negotiations on salaries have proven difficult for DB because it is simultaneously discussing tariff changes with EVG, another union working for rail and transport employees. The rail operator argues that it is trying to create comparably fair contracts for members of both trade unions.

mg/bk (AFP, dpa)

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