Wages dispute with train drivers union German rail strike to affect passengers from Monday to Wednesday

Berlin · A second round of strikes is in store for Deutsche Bahn: The train drivers' union GDL has plans that will paralyze large sections of passenger and freight traffic. Once again, millions of travelers are likely to be affected.

 Scores of travelers wait at Frankfurt's main station for an ICE train to Berlin.

Scores of travelers wait at Frankfurt's main station for an ICE train to Berlin.

Foto: dpa/Frank Rumpenhorst

Passengers of Deutsche Bahn have to prepare for another strike from Monday to Wednesday. The German Train Drivers' Union has called on its members to walk off the job for the second time in the current round of collective bargaining.

"They are striking for more wages, for the protection of their pensions," GDL head Claus Weselsky said Friday in Berlin. The anger among members at management was great, he said.

Unlike last week, this time passengers have more time to prepare for the strike. In freight transport, however, the walkout is to begin as early as 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon. In passenger transport, the strike is scheduled to begin at 2 a.m. Monday and end at 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Last week, the GDL went on strike for two days on long-distance and local trains operated by Deutsche Bahn. Deutsche Bahn set up an emergency timetable, but had to cancel most of the services. For freight transport, the strike lasted several hours longer.

The renewed strike is likely to affect many holiday travelers

The new strike is likely to affect millions of passengers again, including many people traveling on vacation. School breaks are still in effect in ten of Germany's federal states.

Among other things, the GDL is fighting for better pay and is demanding wage increases of around 3.2 percent, as in the public sector, as well as a Corona bonus of 600 euros in the current year. Unlike the larger rail and transport union (EVG), it does not want to accept a pay freeze this year.

Deutsche Bahn had offered the GDL 3.2 percent, but the increase is to take effect later than demanded by the union. The two sides are also still clearly at odds over the terms of the collective agreement.

The GDL broke off negotiations in June. A that time, the members voted for strikes by means of ballot. On Tuesday, members of the GDL and the German Civil Service Federation (dbb) joined Weselsky in demonstrating for their demands in front of Deutsche Bahn's corporate headquarters.

Deutsche Bahn criticized the announced strike by the GDL train drivers' union as a "completely unnecessary" burden on customers. "This second vacation strike shows: a collective bargaining partner is permanently refusing," personnel director Martin Seiler said on Friday. "Instead of having the courage to return to the negotiating table, the GDL leadership is taking its union-political fight for expansion and influence to the extreme on the backs of rail customers."

GDL rejects criticism of pandemic strike

The GDL rejected criticism of its recent strike amid a Corona surge. "It is not the goal of railroad workers in Germany to paralyze rail traffic," GDL head Claus Weselsky said in Berlin. "Rather, the goal is to achieve better incomes, to protect the smallest pensions." Weselsky also cited the group's management, which had repeatedly stressed that rail travel was safe in terms of infections. Infection figures in Germany have been rising again for several weeks.

Weselsky attacked SPD politician Karl Lauterbach, who had warned that strikes at the railroads would lead to more infections. "The health pope of the Social Democrats, Lauterbach, is taking it upon himself to trample on the basic rights of railroad workers," said Weselsky, a member of the CDU. He spoke of smear campaigns against the union.

The passenger association Pro Bahn also expressed concern about possible infection risks. One has to ask whether strikes make sense at all in Corona times, said honorary chairman Karl-Peter Naumann on n-tv.

(Orig. text: dpa / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)

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