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German train drivers' union vow to continue strike action as planned

Germany's train drivers' union says it will continue its strike until Sunday, after rejecting Deutsche Bahn's latest offer. The workers are demanding wages be raised and working hours cut.

The union's decision to continue its strike came as a blow to commuters across Germany, after earlier hopes the action would be called off before its scheduled end date on Sunday.

The announcement was made by the head of the GDL train drivers union, Claus Weselsky, at a rally of union members in Berlin.

"We will continue our strike until 9 o'clock on Sunday," he said.

This would make it the longest train strike in Deutsche Bahn's history, impacting the 5.5 million passengers who use the service daily.

It is the eighth time workers have worked off the job over the dispute since September 2014, with the first seven rounds of action estimated to have cost around 220 million euros ($248 million), according to Deutsche Bahn CEO, Rüdiger Grube.

Freight trains were the first to be affected on Monday, with the industrial action spreading to passenger services from Tuesday onwards.

The GDL announced it would stop work for seven days, in an attempt to force Germany's national rail service to comply with its demands.

The GDL is calling for a 5 percent pay raise, a reduction in drivers' working weeks from 39 hours to 27, and for their negotiating powers to be extended to other rail employees such as train stewards.

An offer of a 4.7 percent increase and a one-off payment of 1,000 euros was knocked back by the union last week.

On Wednesday Deutsche Bahn proposed an independent mediator be brought in to umpire discussions between the two sides, and suggested Social Democratic Party politician Matthias Platzeck.

Weselsky dismissed the suggestion as a "PR stunt," saying the company was trying to "buy time."

It is not just trains that are being affected by the strike, but other industries which rely on the transport system too.

The Federation of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry said if the strike was to continue as originally planned, it could cost up to half a billion euros, and affect growth in May.

an/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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