German railway employees strikes cause disruption

Strikes by German railway employees caused disruption for a third straight day, and the national rail operator said it would make unions a new offer in their wage dispute.

Deutsche Bahn AG said morning walkouts by workers at signal boxes in parts of the country disrupted services on several major long-distance routes, including the Berlin-Frankfurt and Hamburg-Munich lines.

However, Wednesday's delays fell short of the disruption seen on Tuesday, when a union that represents many of Deutsche Bahn's train drivers called a four-hour strike.

The latest walkouts were part of a dispute involving the Transnet and GDBA unions, which represent a broad range of rail employees and are calling for wage increases of 7 percent for some 134,000 workers.

They have rejected an offer of a 2-percent raise in January, followed by another 2 percent in July 2009, and one-time extra payments of EUR300 (US$400) to cover the rest of this year.

Deutsche Bahn met with leaders of the two unions Wednesday, and the company said it would make a new offer on Thursday.

Transnet chairman Norbert Hansen said he expected a "significantly improved offer," and said that officials would decide whether to continue with their strikes after they receive details of the new proposal.

On Thursday, Deutsche Bahn also is expected to meet with the train drivers' union, GDL, which wants a separate wage agreement for its members and is seeking wage increases of up to 31 percent for some drivers.