Germany braces for nationwide rail strike

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BERLIN, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- Germany is bracing for a short-notice nationwide rail strike that is scheduled to start on Wednesday evening local time and last 20 hours.

The German Train Drivers' Union (GDL) and state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn have been in negotiations for a new collective agreement since last week. The second round of negotiations had been slated for the coming days.

Following the announcement of the warning strike, Deutsche Bahn canceled the upcoming negotiations. "We will not be negotiating with the train drivers' union this week. Either you go on strike or you negotiate, you can't do both at the same time," Deutsche Bahn Board member Martin Seiler said.

In the first round, the rail company offered an 11-percent pay increase and an inflation compensation premium of up to 2,850 euros (3,093 U.S. dollars). The union's demand for a four-day, 35-hour workweek with no loss of pay was "not feasible," Seiler said.

GDL Chairman Claus Weselsky defended the decision to call for warning strikes. "We are putting a bit more pressure on the employer to be willing to negotiate a reduction in weekly working hours," he told Deutschlandfunk radio on Wednesday.

"The strike will have a massive impact on all German rail operations," Deutsche Bahn wrote on a blog. Passengers were asked to "refrain from non-essential travel" or to "postpone their journey."

On Monday, Transport Minister Volker Wissing spoke out against rail strikes during the Christmas season, when people want to visit relatives and friends. He appealed to all parties involved to "be aware of their special responsibility and to design possible measures in such a way that people do not have to suffer as a result." (1 euro = 1.09 U.S. dollars) Enditem

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