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German train passengers in strike mode

A strike of Germany's train drivers' union is in full swing, with around two-thirds of long-distance trains cancelled. The head of Germany's national rail service, Deutsche Bahn, is said to have an idea for a compromise.

For many commuters and travelers in Germany, Wednesday marks the second full day of strikes that have affected passenger trains operated by Deutsche Bahn. According to a statement on the Deutsche Bahn website, around two-thirds of all long-distance trains have been cancelled and one-third of regional trains.

Deutsche Bahn has implemented an alternative schedule and is encouraging its customers to use the trains that are running.

This is easier for some Germans that others, with the strikes particularly affecting the city of Frankfurt and regions in the eastern part of the country. Deutsche Bahn said on Wednesday that in the eastern region around Halle, Leipzig, and Dresden, only around 15 percent of trains are actually running.

The strike is being led by the

GDL train drivers' union

, which called for a seven-day strike on Sunday. The first freight trains were affected on Monday, and traffic is to remain impacted until next Sunday. It would be the

longest strike in Deutsche Bahn history

.

GDL is seeking a 5-percent wage increase and wants the hours of the working week to be reduced from 39 to 37.

The key point of contention, however, is that GDL (the smaller of Germany's two engine driver's unions with 20,000 members) also wants the right to independently represent around 17,000 train workers in other positions such as stewards in collective bargaining procedures. The current strikes are the eighth in the on-going negotiations.

On Tuesday, Deutsche Bahn CEO Rüdiger Grube said he planned to unveil a proposal on Wednesday that would lead to "settling the issue."

DB transports about a fifth of the country's freight and 5.5 million private passengers a day. During the previous bout of strikes, the BDI industry federation accused GDL of costing the nation's economy "up to 100 million euros per day."

Last week GDL rejected an offer from Deutsche Bahn for a 4.7-percent pay increase and a one-time per-employee payment of 1,000 euros ($1,120) by the end of June. The two sides blame each other for the breakdown in negotiations.

mz/kms (AFP, dpa)

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