German rail strike: Deutsche Bahn loses injunction attempt

Published : September 03, 2021 15:13 IST

The strike left some passengers with nowhere to go. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa/picture-alliance

A train drivers' strike has caused commuter headaches for many in Germany for the third time in recent weeks.

Deutsche Bahn filed an injunction against the strike at a Frankfurt am Main labor court on the morning of September 2, after talks between management and the GDL train drivers' union failed. However, an employment tribunal in Frankfurt rejected the request, meaning the strike will go on as planned.

The move came as German train drivers stepped up the industrial side of their action by extending a strike of freight trains to passenger traffic, having rejected a new offer from Deutsche Bahn. "This labor dispute is obviously more about legal and political issues than about finding solutions for good working conditions at the negotiating table," said a statement from the company after it filed the objection.

What's behind the strike?

This strike, the third and longest in the current dispute, has affected freight services since the afternoon of September 1 and passenger traffic early from September 2. The strike is due to run until 2 a.m. on September 7.

The GDL, which held two strikes in August, is demanding a 3.2 per cent increase in pay for drivers, in addition to a coronavirus bonus of €600 ($710). Late on September 1, Deutsche Bahn offered to pay a coronavirus bonus of up to €600 and to introduce the increase on a quicker time line. Previously, the company had not specified the amount of the bonus.

Deutsche Bahn had argued there was now no need for train drivers to strike. "We are fulfilling the GDL's central demands," said Martin Seiler, member of the board of directors of Deutsche Bahn's personnel department.

Union brands deal unacceptable

However, the offer was not enough to win over the union leadership and have it call off the strike. "The bad news for Bahn customers: The strike will continue," GDL chair Claus Weselsky told public broadcaster ARD on September 2.

Weselsky gave a list of objections to the deal, including that it would not apply to newer members of the union who have joined in the past 14 months. It would also include a year in which there would be no increase. The company has said this is necessary during its consolidation in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. "Nobody, and especially no union in the world, could accept this offer," Weselsky said.

During the strike days, Deutsche Bahn says it aims to keep a quarter of long-distance trains running. For regional and suburban rail services, the company hopes to maintain operation of about 40 per cent of journeys. Eastern regions and larger cities were expected to be hit worst.

The overarching rail and transport union EVG has already reached an agreement with Deutsche Bahn, but the train drivers' union considers the results insufficient.

es,sms/rc (Reuters, dpa)