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No-shows and blame game: GDL and DB talks stall again

Negotiations between a German train drivers' union and the national rail operator are at a new impasse. The GDL and Deutsche Bahn have blamed each other after talks set for Sunday failed to materialize.

Talks between the German national rail carrier, Deutsche Bahn (DB), and GDL train drivers' union appear once again to be stuck between stations. Each side has blamed the other for calling off talks scheduled for Sunday.

In an interview printed in the Sunday edition of the mass-circulation daily Bild, German Economy Minister and Social Democratic Party head Sigmar Gabriel called for "both parties to come to a conciliation as soon as possible." He added: "This labor dispute is not just about wages or working conditions, but also questions of power. This is new to Germany. Many people do not understand the train strikes."

The GDL has waged eight walkouts over 10 months of negotiations, with a 3,000-driver-strong strike earlier this month that lasted six days - making it Germany's longest train strike. The union wants a 5 percent pay hike for drivers, a two-hour cut in drivers' working week and the right to represent other rail staff, such as train stewards.

Disputed discussions

According to DB, the two sides had negotiated for 20 hours from Friday into Saturday and agreed to meet again at 10 a.m. (0800 UTC) on Sunday. GDL officials later said DB had "unilaterally" called off the morning session.

"Even as the GDL evaluated the offer submitted by the employer at 17:50, the DB negotiating team left the negotiating table," union leader Claus Weselsky said on Sunday.

DB officials, however, said it happened the other way around. Weselsky added that the union was evaluating its next moves.

DB is not just in conflict with GDL, but also must negotiate with a separate rail union, the EVG, which has also sought to bargain for all German train staff. That union has warned that if DB and the GDL cannot reach an agreement by Thursday its drivers could strike as well.

Nationwide and across industries, Germany appears to be on pace for a record year in strikes as discontent with labor practices grows. In April, the union Cockpit, which represents Lufthansa pilots, brought flights to a halt for Germany's flagship air carrier. Earlier in May, staff at youth, children's and day care centers announced an unlimited strike until a 10 percent raise was put forth.

mkg/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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