German train drivers are striking through Monday. On Friday, their union rejected a new pay offer put forth by the national railway operator.
Despite a last-ditch offer by the national rail operator, Deutsche Bahn (DB), the GDL train drivers' union began a nationwide strike at 2 a.m. on Saturday (0000 UTC), after launching a stoppage of freight on Friday afternoon. Most trains will resume regular service at 4 a.m. on Monday. Though DB will attempt to keep a third of its service running on the weekend, millions of people will be affected by the strike.
"For passengers who cannot travel as planned because of strike-related cancellations, delays or missed connections, Deutsche Bahn is offering refunds and exchanges through station ticket offices, DB agencies and, for online tickets, through www.bahn.de," the operator announced. "As an alternative, passengers can use the next train, even if it would be more expensive."
DB had unveiled a new pay offer on Friday in an attempt to avert the weekend strike by train drivers. It included a raise of 5 percent, increased incrementally in three steps over 19 months.
The union has pushed for the 5 percent pay raise, but also a decrease of two hours' work per week. Late Friday, GDL head Claus Weselsky called DB's last-minute effort a ‘sham offer' and said that it only served to sap solidarity among members of the train crews, on whose behalf the union has sought to negotiate - that is, all onboard staff from conductors to food service, and not just drivers.
Drivers have launched three strikes in two weeks. The weekend stoppage hits a little harder than the previous two, coinciding with the start of school holidays in seven of Germany's 16 states, and the end of the vacation period in two of them, including North Rhine-Westphalia - the most populous.
The industrial action has also caused major disruption for those wanting to travel to weekend sporting events, including the cancellation of special trains deployed to take fans to football matches. The strike also hits DB's urban and regional services. The train drivers had just returned to work on Thursday morning after a 14-hour strike.
"The parties should quickly resume talks," German Transportation Minister Alexander Dobrindt said on Friday, urging a speedy return to the negotiating table for representatives from DB and GDL.
mkg/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa)