After 48-hour strike halts passenger services, German rail union warns of more possible action

Published : August 13, 2021 13:56 IST

Passengers were left seeking alternatives as the majority of services were cancelled. Photo: Christoph Schmidt/dpa/picture alliance

A union representing German train drivers has warned of further strike action after a walkout that crippled services.

The German Train Drivers Union (GDL) said it retains the possibility of strike action next week if its demands are not satisfied.

A 48-hour passenger rail strike that started on August 11 left travelers across Germany scrambling to make alternative arrangements. Only about 25 per cent of long-distance trains are operating as normal. Some 40 per cent of regional routes are in service.

What is the union saying?

The GDL has said it will only make its decision on possible further strikes next week. GDL vice-chairman Norbert Quitter said officials first wanted to assess the DB executive board's reaction to the initial strike.

A strike involving rail freight began on the evening of August 10, with the passenger train strike taking effect in the night going into the morning of August 11. GDL has said it plans to end the strike on August 13 at 2 a.m. (0000 GMT).

What does management say?

Deutsch Bahn (DB) spokesman Achim Stauss described the strike as "completely excessive" and called on the GDF to desist from industrial action and resume negotiations. Stauss said both sides are already "relatively close" at the negotiating table, he told national broadcaster ZDF. "What there is to discuss must be clarified there and not at the expense of the passengers," said Stauss.

What is the strike all about?

The GDL announced the strike after the collapse of wage talks with the DB management. Union officials said representatives had failed to reach any agreement with DB over pay raises, bonuses, benefits, job security, and retirement for the GDL's 37,000 members.

The GDL is demanding a wage increase of around 3.2 per cent by 2022, as well as the payment of a one-time coronavirus allowance of 600 euros ($700). DB says its position on pay is "quite close" to the union's – conceding to the 3.2 per cent demand but asking for an extra year to pay it out. The company says that, after losing billions of pounds in revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic, it needs the delay.

Meanwhile, the even larger EVG train drivers union which has already reached an agreement with DB — has said it plans to renegotiate its contract if the GDL gets a better offer.

rc/wmr (AFP, dpa)