German train drivers to strike again from Friday

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FRANKFURT, Oct 1 (Reuters) Germany's GDL train drivers'union announced today that it would begin new strikes on Friday after failing to reach an agreement on a wage increase with national rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

GDL Chairman Manfred Schell said in a statement that Deutsche Bahn ''bears sole responsibility for the fact that on Friday, October 5 there will be a limited nationwide strike affecting passenger and freight trains.'' Deutsche Bahn, which the government wants to partly privatise by 2009, has been locked in a months-long wage dispute with GDL, which says Germany's 34,000 train drivers are underpaid compared with their counterparts elsewhere in Europe.

After disruptive GDL strikes over the summer, the two sides agreed to hold new talks through September, but they have been unable to reach a compromise.

GDL said it formally notified Deutsche Bahn that the latest round of wage negotiations have collapsed.

At the weekend, Deutsche Bahn personnel chief Margret Suckale said the company had done all it could to try to settle the wage dispute.

''We have emergency plans in place and are readying ourselves for a labour conflict,'' Suckale told Die Welt newspaper.

Deutsche Bahn had hoped to convince GDL to sign up to a wage deal that it struck with two other unions, which foresees salary increases of 4.5 per cent.

Last week, it offered to pay the drivers for an additional two hours' work per week -- which it said would result in bottom-line salary increases of up to 10 per cent. But GDL has says the new offer just means more work for the same pay.

REUTERS SKB RN1528

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