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German Rail Strike Ends Early as Wage Negotiations Resume

(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s railways will start rolling again after negotiations between train drivers and state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn AG resumed.

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The Gewerkschaft Deutscher Lokomotivführer, or GDL, will end its strike on Saturday and agreed to not stage another walkout until at least March 3, according to a statement. The six-day strike — which would have been the longest in Deutsche Bahn’s history — was originally supposed to end on Monday at 6 p.m. local time.

“Negotiations are finally underway again,” said Martin Seiler, Deutsche Bahn’s personnel chief. “Our customers have planning certainty and our employees have the prospect of wage increases soon.”

The bitter contract dispute affected long-distance freight and passenger transport as well as local commuter services, adding more strain to Europe’s largest economy.

Germany’s BDI industry lobby had warned that a six-day walkout could lead to losses of as much as €1 billion ($1.1 billion) and cause “enormous problems” for companies, particularly in the chemicals, steel, automotive, paper and timber sectors.

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Tensions had escalated after the small, but powerful GDL union rejected a third offer from Deutsche Bahn, which has struggled increasingly with reliability as a result of years of underfunding.

The latest offer from the rail company includes a €1,500 inflation-adjustment bonus that could be paid in March. Base pay as well as reduced working hours — a key union demand — are being negotiated.

Freight traffic should resume Sunday at 6 p.m., while passenger services will restart on Monday at 2 a.m., Deutsche Bahn said.

“DB’s willingness to negotiate a reduction in working hours is of central importance,” GDL chief Claus Weselsky said in a separate statement. “If an agreement is reached, this would be a strong signal for the entire railroad system.”

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