PUEBLA, Mexico (AP) _ Mexico's federal government has ordered striking employees at Volkswagen AG's Mexican plant back to work, saying those who do not return risk being fired.

The strike by 12,600 members of the Independent Union of Volkswagen Workers halted assembly lines at the New Beetle's only production site.

The order came after a federal arbitration board ruled late Tuesday that the five-day strike was illegal, partly because the union did not give proper notice of the strike. The Secretariat of Labor and Welfare then gave the striking employees until Thursday to return to work.

Officials from both the union and Volkswagen were not immediately available for comment.

Workers at the Puebla plant went on strike Friday, idling production at the German carmaker's only North American plant.

The union was seeking a 35 percent wage increase, while the company had offered to match inflation. The government's inflation target this year is 10 percent.

Volkswagen makes 1,540 cars a day at Puebla: Jettas, Golf convertibles, New Beetles and old Beetles. The New Beetles are exported to the United States, Europe and Asia. The plant employs 16,000 people overall.

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