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German train drivers end historic strike

German train drivers are returning to work after the longest-ever strike in Deutsche Bahn's history. Workers walked off the job for one week amid a dispute with the national rail service over wages and working hours.

German train drivers are returning to work after the longest-ever strike in Deutsche Bahn's history. Workers walked off the job for one week amid a dispute with the national rail service over wages and working hours.

The German train drivers' strike ended officially on Sunday morning, but authorities warned it would take some time for the country's rail network to return to normal.

Deutsche Bahn said suburban and regional trains would be running as scheduled by the afternoon, while long distance services were expected to remain limited throughout the day. Banked-up goods meant freight trains will likely be affected for several days to come, the rail service added.

Claus Weselsky, the head of the GDL train drivers union, told newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeiting" no further strikes were planned for the time being.

"The country and the rail customers now deserve a break," he said.

GDL called the seven-day strike in an attempt to force Germany's national rail service to comply with its demands, which include a 5 percent pay rise and a reduction in drivers' working weeks from 39 hours to 37.

Freight trains were the first to be affected on Monday, with the industrial action spreading to passenger services on Tuesday.

The GDL, the smaller of Germany's two engine driver's unions, is also demanding the right to independently represent around 17,000 train workers in other positions such as stewards, in collective bargaining procedures.

An offer by Deutsche Bahn of a 4.7 percent increase and a one-off payment of 1,000 euros ($1,120) was knocked back by the union last week.

The work stoppage was the longest in Deutsche Bahn's history, impacting the 5.5 million passengers who use the service daily.

It was the eighth time in 10 months that workers walked off the job over the dispute, with the first seven rounds of action estimated to have cost the company around 220 million euros ($248 million), according to Deutsche Bahn CEO Rüdiger Grube.

nm/jr (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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