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Pay and working conditions: German train conductors to strike for five days

Pay and working conditions : German train conductors to strike for five days

These are tough times for travelers and commuters. Starting Thursday, there will be another strike in passenger traffic, and it will last longer than last time. Deutsche Bahn advises: Please reschedule your travel.

Starting Thursday, rail customers will have to prepare for the longest strike of this round of collective bargaining so far. The German Train Drivers' Union (GDL) plans to paralyze rail traffic for five days, as its chairman, Claus Weselsky, said in Frankfurt am Main.

The strike will not end until 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday (Sept. 7). This means that the third strike within a few weeks will now also affect a weekend of passenger traffic. As for freight traffic, GDL members are to stop work as early as Wednesday evening.

In addition to hundreds of thousands of commuters, the labor dispute will again affect numerous travelers. The vacation season is still underway, with school vacations ending this weekend in Saxony and Thuringia.

"It's one of the longest industrial actions we are taking, and we're doing it on purpose," Weselsky said. "We don't see ourselves ready or willing to take shorter industrial action here, given the obstructionist attitude of DB managers." No one should believe that the GDL is not capable of longer strikes, he stressed. For the time being, however, Weselsky ruled out indefinite strikes.

"Our message to rail travelers is that we're sorry we're going into a third labor dispute." However, travelers should not be outraged at the union, but at the railroad's management. It has not submitted a new tariff offer, he said.

Deutsche Bahn announced on Monday that it would continue to make "a reliable mobility offer" of around a quarter of the normally scheduled trains on long-distance services during the third strike. In regional and suburban rail services, there will again be a basic offer of 40 percent of the trains.

"Those who can should reschedule their travel to before or after the strike," the group said. Travelers could use tickets flexibly for the strike period and move their trips forward or postpone them until Sept. 17. A refund would also be possible.

Lufthansa announced that it would be using larger aircraft from Thursday because of the rail strike. However, the company does not want to increase the frequency of flights, said a spokeswoman.

The latest strike ended only on Wednesday night last week. The day after, traffic was largely back to normal.

Since then, there has been no agreement with the management in the wage dispute. In interviews in recent days, Deutsche Bahn CEO Richard Lutz called on the union to return to the negotiating table. At the same time, he accused GDL chairman Claus Weselsky of dividing the workforce with false allegations.

The passenger association Pro Bahn accused the union of not being prudent enough with its right to strike. It was damaging the reputation of the railroads and the intended transport transformation, said the association's honorary chairman, Karl-Peter Naumann. "I know enough people who say, if this goes on, that's it for rail travel."

Deutsche Bahn wants to increase wages and salaries by 3.2 percent as demanded by the GDL. However, the timing of the individual steps and the duration of the new collective agreement are disputed. The GDL wants it to run over a period of 28 months. The Deutsche Bahn offer would run for 40 months. "This is a completely different collective agreement," Weselsky stressed.

Once again, it is not only the staff on the trains, such as train drivers, who are being called up, but also employees in the infrastructure.

In this way, the GDL wants to expand its influence among employees in competition with the EVG, its larger rival union. It sees its strength threatened in particular by the so-called Collective Bargaining Unity Act. This law stipulates that in a company with several unions, only the collective agreement of the employee representation with the most members is applied. From Deutsche Bahn's point of view, this is the EVG in most of the 300 or so rail companies. The GDL disputes this.

Orig. text: Christian Ebner, Burkhard Fraune, Matthias Arnold, dpa

Translation: ck