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Strike Halts 1,000 Trains in Germany

March 6, 2003

BERLIN (AP) _ Striking railroad workers caused the delay or cancelation of about 1,000 trains across Germany early Thursday, stepping up the pressure on rail operator Deutsche Bahn as it resumed pay talks with labor unions.

Deutsche Bahn said some 850 passenger trains as well as 150 freight trains were affected when train engineers walked off the job for about 45 minutes from 6 a.m. Commuter traffic was badly hit in the southern cities of Munich, Stuttgart and Nuremberg as well as Berlin and Rostock in the north, it said, estimating that as many as 1.5 million passengers were affected in total.

Another 100 workers, including ticket sales staff, held a short strike at Berlin’s main Zoo station, unions said.

The strike was the most extensive since workers began a series of short stoppages at the weekend and coincided with new pay negotiations between rail and union officials in Berlin.

The main rail unions Transnet and GDBA, which held strikes earlier this week, are seeking a 5 percent pay increase for the country’s 160,000 rail workers. But Deutsche Bahn had offered only 1.3 percent, along with steps to bring wages in the former communist east into line with those in the west and bonus payments when earnings improve.

The company put a new offer on the table late Thursday, Deutsche Bahn spokesman Uwe Herz said, but he declined to give details. The talks, which were suspended after eight hours, were to resume Friday.

The rail company, which is in the middle of an efficiency drive to make it fit for possible privatization, has warned that a big pay rise could force it to lay off more staff.

Train engineers’ union GdL is seeking a separate wage contract with a 3 percent wage increase _ a more moderate position criticized by the main unions.

Union leaders have threatened to poll members on intensified strike action if the talks fail, and have called for a demonstration in Berlin March 14.

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