Berlin - Several thousand German manufacturing workers, mostly in the car industry, went on strike on Thursday, weeks after the start of tough pay talks in the key metalwork sector.

Fifteen companies in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state were hit by so-called warning strikes beginning in the night, with a total 3,000 workers downing tools, the IG Metall union said.

Two plants of the auto company Ford in the western city of Cologne were among those affected by the warning strikes, which usually last just a few hours and can be a precursor to longer action.

Elsewhere, other companies hit or due to see strike action Thursday included Daimler, Bosch and Airbus, which was set for a three-hour stoppage in the northern port city of Hamburg, IG Metall said.

IG Metall is demanding pay rises of 5.5 percent for the nearly four million workers in sectors including electronics, the auto industry, household electrical goods and semi-conductors.

Its pay deals are used as a benchmark for much of German industry.

Employers have offered an increase of 2.2 percent.

“There’s much disappointment” among the workers, Knut Giesler, of IG Metall’s regional branch in NRW, said.