A German train driver's union says it's ending its strike early after it agreed with the country's largest rail operator to take a labor dispute to arbitration.

The GDL union and rail operator Deutsche Bahn said jointly Thursday they'd agreed to a three week period starting next week to allow arbitrators to try to settle their long-running and increasingly bitter dispute, the dpa news agency reported.

Train drivers had gone on strike earlier in the week and planned to stay off the job at least through the weekend but will now return later in the day.

GDL wants a 5 percent pay increase and shorter hours but the central sticking point is its demand to negotiate for other staff, including conductors, who are traditionally represented by a larger rival union.