Union chief upbeat on prospects for deal in German wage talks

BERLIN, April 15 (Reuters) - The head of Germany's public sector union said he was upbeat about reaching a compromise with employers in a third round of wage talks due to begin on Sunday, after a week of strikes by more than 150,000 union members.

Verdi leader Frank Bsirske told German newspaper Handelsblatt the two sides had been far apart in the previous two rounds of wage talks, but he was more optimistic going into the third round.

"Given the signals that I'm now getting, it should be possible to achieve a sustainable compromise," Bsirske told Handelsblatt.

Verdi, with 2.3 million members, and the dbb assocation of civil servants, which represents 344,000 public servants, have been pressing for a pay raise of 6 percent for their next 12-month contract, or least 200 euros more a month.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the federal government's top negotiator, on Saturday said he would press for "reasonable results" in the next round of pay talks, but dismissed the union pay rise demand as "too high for one year."

Ulrich Silberbach, head of the dbb and the lead negotiator for the labour side, said the unions were ready to negotiate, but it was up to Seehofer to present a counter-offer. "After the long negotiations on forming a government, we can't afford to also have long wage conflicts," he said in a statement.

Verdi's Bsirske said surging German tax revenues meant the pay deal should definitely be higher than one struck two years ago, when workers got an initial 2.4 percent increase, followed by a 2.35 percent increase.

"Last time we had a 2 before the comma. That will definitely not be enough," he told Handelsblatt.

Wage talks are due to resume around midday in Potsdam, near Berlin, after a week of walkout across the country that left thousands of passengers stranded at airports, and hit hospitals, childcare centres and waste depots.

In the industrial sector, 3.9 million workers agreed on a pay and flexible working hours deal in February that amounted to a roughly 4 percent rise per year for 2018 and 2019. Inflation edged up to 1.5 percent in March.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, is in solid shape, with buoyant tax revenues and a record budget surplus. Falling unemployment, inflation-busting pay rises and low borrowing costs are fuelling a consumer-led upswing.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal. Editing by Jane Merriman)