Several thousand steel workers in western Germany laid down tools Tuesday in order to turn up the heat on employers in the upcoming fourth round of wage talks, the powerful IG Metall labor union said. Work stoppages were staged in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony and in the city-state of Bremen, IG Metall said. Employers and labor representatives were scheduled to meet for a fourth round of wage talks in Dortmund on Wednesday after negotiations had failed to reach any agreement last Friday. In the talks for 85,000 workers in the sector, IG Metall dismissed as a "provocation" employers' latest offer for a 1.9-percent rise in wages over a period of 19 months and a one-off bonus of 500 euros ($650) while steel prices and companies' profits are soaring thanks to the worldwide boom in demand. The union is calling for annual wage increases of 6.5 percent.