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Germany to face more rail chaos as GDL calls new strike

Just over a week after Germany's longest-ever rail strike, the GDL train drivers' union has announced an open-ended strike for later this week, which is set to severely impact traffic over the Witsun holiday.

Train services across Germany are set to face a fresh round of disruptions after the GDL train drivers' union announced Monday it would organize a new strike.

Cargo transport trains would be subject to the strike beginning at 3 pm (1300 GMT) Tuesday, and passenger service would be targeted starting at 2 am Wednesday, GDL said.

The industrial action was open-ended, the union added, saying it would not name the end point until 48 hours ahead of the time its members plan to get back on the job.

According to GDL union boss Claus Weselsky, the plan is for this latest work stoppage to last longer than the previous one, which went on for nearly six days at the beginning of May.

"You can assume that this strike will last a little longer" than the last stoppage, Weselsky told a press conference.

The GDL has so far staged eight walkouts over 10 months of negotiations, with a 3,000-driver-strong strike earlier this month being the longest-ever rail strike in Germany. Economists say the week-long strike may have cost the German national rail carrier, Deutsche Bahn (DB), around 750 million euros ($855.7 million).

Accusations keep flying

The GDL union, which represents some 20,000 train drivers, is demanding a 5-percent pay hike for drivers, a two-hour cut in drivers' working week as well as the right to represent other rail workers such as conductors and restaurant carriage staff.

That demand is effectively a turf war with the larger railway union EVG, which has more than 200,000 members, and which is now involved in separate, less heated, wage negotiations with DB.

Wage negotiations between the GDL and DB reached another impasse over the weekend after talks set for Sunday failed to materialize.

A Deutsche Bahn spokeswoman said the company's negotiating team waited in vain on Sunday for GDL representatives who never arrived.

The union said that was because it had been informed by Deutsche Bahn late Saturday that the following day's talks were off. Deutsche Bahn said the union had "twisted the facts," repeating accusations that GDL had again walked away from deals that were almost done.

uhe/nz (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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