BERLIN - German engineering employers said on Tuesday they hoped to resume talks on Thursday or Friday with union IG Metall to try and end strike action in eastern Germany which has hit the country's key auto sector.
"The negotiations will be resumed, and the employers are ready," said Werner Riek, spokesman for the employers' group Gesamtmetall.
The strike, aimed at reducing weekly working hours for engineering workers in eastern Germany from 38 hours to the western norm of 35 hours, has been going on for three weeks in the east and has started to hurt production in the west.
IG Metall has said it was ready to consider cutting the working week in stages and at varying speeds depending on the economic position of individual plants.
Engineering workers in the east currently work three hours longer a week than their counterparts in the west, a difference employers say is justified because of lower productivity.
Unemployment in the former Communist east is about 20 percent. BMW AG has said the strike might make it reconsider the scale of an investment in the eastern city Leipzig, where it is building a new factory which was due to create 5,500 jobs.
The German car industry accounts for 10 percent of total industrial output and hundreds of thousands of jobs.