Rail passengers in Germany faced major delays on Tuesday as transportation unions went on strike, calling for greater wage equality. They say private operators pay significantly less than national operator Deutsche Bahn.
Stoppages were expected over periods lasting two hours
A pay dispute led to widespread rail strikes around Germany on Tuesday, with workers at private firms demanding significant salary increases to match those of employees of national rail operator Deutsche Bahn.
Rail unions Transnet and GDBA were asking for pay rises from six of Germany's smaller regional rail operators.
The unions said that Abellio, Benex, Keolis, Veolia, Hessische Landesbahn and Arriva paid staff as much as 20 percent less than the national operator paid its rail workers.
"The responsibility for this escalation lies clearly with the employers," said a statement published on Transnet's website. "We have been made an offer that would exacerbate the pay difference even further, and it was declared, at the same time, that this was the final offer."
Unions said they wanted to minimize passenger disruption
Germany allocates regional services to private groups by tender, in line with EU law. Almost all of the country's tracks belong to Deutsche Bahn, which other firms pay to use.
Deutsche Bahn said that the stoppages were "unjustified and counterproductive."
A spokesman for the independent operators said that major concessions had already been made in negotiations and that the firms "have no sympathy whatsoever for this strike."
Unions have warned that further strikes could be staged in future if a deal was not reached.
While the action was not being carried out against Deutsche Bahn, some of the rail operator's staff were also expected to strike. And although the dispute was largely focused on the regions, mainline services could also be affected if personnel refused to operate track points.
The states of North-Rhine Westphalia and Bavaria were expected to be hardest hit.
Author: Darren Mara, Richard Connor (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson