German train driver union calls for a new two-day strike


Berlin, Germany — A union representing many train drivers of German state rail operators is calling for members on a new two-day strike starting Monday. This is the second strike of a fierce dispute with the company.

Passenger train drivers will strike from 2 am Monday to 2 am Wednesday, said Klaus Weselsky, head of the GDL union. Freight train drivers will start a strike on Saturday afternoon.

The strike followed last week’s two-day strike, with most of Germany’s long-haul and commuter train systems almost shut down. “So far, there have been no relentless signs of a wage dispute,” Deutsche Bahn, a railroad operator, said at a press conference on Friday.

The union’s request includes a 3.2% salary increase and a one-time “coronavirus bonus” of € 600 ($ 700). The GDL is at odds with Deutsche Bahn, among other things, when the hike should take place and for what period the wage agreement should be covered.

The state-owned Deutsche Bahn has lost billions of dollars since the coronavirus pandemic began. Moreover, recent floods have destroyed or damaged many railroad tracks.

Wezelsky’s GDL critics argue that union competition is an important factor in the controversy. Traditionally focused on train drivers, GDL is competing with the larger rival union EVG to represent a wider range of railroad workers.

Deutsche Bahn has criticized the new strike as “totally unnecessary.” Martin Seiler, the company’s head of human resources, said “everything needed is at the table” to resolve the dispute and urged the union to return to talks.

Private railway operators operating some regions and some long-haul services in Germany are not affected by the strike.

Wezelski has taken care that GDL does not interfere with weekend trips, but “we can no longer guarantee this in the future.”

Associated Press