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By Tom Sims and Frank Siebelt
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Employees at 40 branches of Deutsche Bank's Postbank are staging brief, warning strikes on Friday and Saturday as they cite rising inflation to demand higher wages, a union official said.
The strikes precede a week of separate wage negotiations for the broader banking industry in Germany.
For months, unions and management at Germany's private and public sector banks have held multiple rounds of wage talks. The outcome so far has been deadlock, punctuated by brief labour stoppages. Negotiations for both sectors, affecting some 200,000 workers, resume next week.
Meanwhile, inflation in Europe's largest economy has gathered pace. In December, the national consumer price index (CPI) rose 5.3% year-on-year, the highest since June 1992 and an acceleration in price pressures after 5.2% in November.
Unions are using inflation as an argument for higher wages when German banks, faced with stiff competition, are trying to cut costs and reduce headcount. Central banks worry that higher wages could further entrench inflation.
Roman Eberle from the Verdi labour union said this week's Postbank strikes involve around 300 employees and inflation is a major concern for the 15,000 staff affected by the outcome of talks that began earlier this week.
Labour unions went into those talks seeking a 6% wage increase. They resume in February.
"Deutsche Bank regrets the union's early call for warning strikes after the first round of negotiations and will do everything to minimise the impact of the warning strikes on Postbank's customers," the bank said in a statement.
Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing has warned about inflation, saying it would "persist for longer" and central banks needed to act "sooner rather than later" to counter it.
Separately from the Postbank talks, Germany's private sector bank wage negotiations resume on Monday. Unions have wanted a 4.5% increase for the 140,000 staff represented in the talks.
On Friday, Sabine Schmittroth, a Commerzbank board member who is representing management in those talks, said that after six months, workers and banks need clarity.
"Now is the time for serious negotiations and pragmatic solutions. We are ready for that," she said.
Thursday marks the resumption of negotiations for 60,000 public sector bank employees, such as those who work for Germany's state-owned Landesbanken and development banks such as KfW. They are also seeking a 4.5% pay increase.
(Reporting by Tom Sims and Frank Siebelt; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Barbara Lewis)