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Union: German train drivers' strike imminent

The union representing German train drivers has threatened new strikes next week after a breakdown in talks with rail operator Deutsche Bahn. The long running labor dispute caused major disruptions last year.

The head of the German train drivers union (GDL) Claus Weselsky said Friday that talks with Deutsche Bahn (DB) had failed, and that new strikes could be held as early as next week. He added that the time and duration of the stoppages would be announced in good time, giving passengers enough time to make alternative arrangements.

Failure to come to an agreement resulted in

a number of train strikes over the past year

, affecting more than 5.5 million people and costing more than 150 million euros ($161 million). If train drivers walk off the job next week, it would be the

seventh strike of its kind

in this round of collective bargaining.

Union boss Weselsky blamed the breakdown in talks on "delaying tactics and nebulous announcements" on the part of DB, saying they were only prepared to offer "champagne for the management and dry bread for the train crew."

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.

It's now unclear whether the next round of talks, scheduled to take place on April 27, will still go ahead.

DB personnel director Ulrich Weber said putting further strikes on the cards was not the right move at this time.

"We're a meter from the finish line and have a package with solutions and good proposals on the table," he said. "The behavior of the GDL leaders is impossible to explain in light of the state of negotiations. We've never been this close."

A Deutsche Bahn spokeswoman said she found the union's announcement "impossible to comprehend."

"The end of negotiations does not reflect the state of talks in any way. We've put forward a very concrete and realistic package," she said.

nm/bw (AFP, dpa)

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