German rail union calls second strike

Published : August 21, 2021 20:30 IST

German train drivers staged their first two-day walk out last week. The next is planned for August 23. Photo: AP

Unions have accused Deutsche Bahn of stalling over a 3.2 per cent pay increase. The state-owned railway operator lost billions during the COVID-19 pandemic and several rail tracks were damaged in the recent floods.

A union representing many of Germany's train drivers on August 20 called workers out on a new, two-day strike starting next week.

Claus Weselsky, the head of the GDL union, said drivers of passenger trains will strike from 2 a.m. local time (00:00 UTC/GMT) Monday to 2 a.m. Wednesday. Action by drivers of freight trains will begin on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Private operators, that run some regional and a few long-distance services, are not affected by the strike. The walkout is the second this year in a bitter dispute between unions and the state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB).

A two-day strike last week brought large parts of Germany's long-distance and commuter train systems to a near-standstill. National rail operator Deutsche Bahn, which runs the high-speed ICE network, has suffered major losses due the the COVID-19 pandemic

Dispute over pay and pensions

 DB "so far has shown no sign of relenting in the pay dispute it brought about itself," Weselsky told a news conference on Friday. "The goal is to achieve better incomes, to protect the smallest pension." GDL is demanding a 3.2 per cent pay hike and a one-time "coronavirus bonus" of €600 ($700).

He said GDL had taken care not to disrupt weekend travel but wouldn't be able to make the same guarantee in the future.

The two sides are at odds over when the pay increases should take effect and the duration of the wage agreement. DB has lost billions since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, while recent floods destroyed or damaged numerous railroad tracks. The rail operator has announced it will spend billions of euros to upgrade the country's rail infrastructure in preparation for the clean energy transition.

mm/rs (AFP, AP, dpa)