Germany's GDL train drivers' union has said it will hold multi-day strikes on passenger and freight trains this week which will cause severe disruptions to state-owned railway Deutsche Bahn's train services.
The union announced Monday that the strike would begin at 2 a.m. (0000 GMT) local time on Wednesday and last for 43 hours, while the freight train strike would start at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Tuesday and last for 66 hours.
The seventh industrial action by train drivers within just 10 months follows the breakdown of negotiations over pay and conditions between the union and rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB). GDL represents about 20,000 of DB's nearly 200,000 workers.
Stressing that train drivers were tired of being "mocked" by DB management, GDL chief Claus Weselsky accused the company of not really wanting to negotiate. "Where there is no will, there is no way," he said.
DB management has rejected the allegations, calling on GDL to return to the negotiating table. DB board member Ulrich Weber said nobody could understand these strikes.
"GDL could have got nearly everything it wanted from talks but what happens? GDL causes more damage to Bahn customers and DB," he added.
Main problem unresolved
The GDL, the smaller of two main train drivers' unions in Germany, is demanding a 5 percent pay hike and one hour less work per week. But another major sticking point has been the union's demand to negotiate on behalf of all on-board personnel, as opposed to just train drivers and engineers.
Negotiations on salaries have proven difficult for DB because it is simultaneously discussing tariff changes with EVG, another union representing rail and transport employees. The rail operator argues that it is trying to create comparably fair contracts for members of both trade unions.
Millions of commuters and travelers ride the railway each day, relying on high-speed lines that crisscross the country. About one-fifth of German freight is also transported by rail. Economists estimate a train strike of more than three days could cost the economy up to 100 million euros ($130 million) a day if assembly lines have to shut because of supply shortages.
sri/uhe (dpa, Reuters, AP)