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German rail strike: What you need to know

December 10, 2018

German rail workers went on a nationwide four-hour strike on Monday to protest for higher wage increases. Two of Germany's biggest rail unions plan to return to negotiations with Deutsche Bahn (DB) on Tuesday.

Display saying trains cancelled
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Kneffel

Long-distance rail travel came to a halt across Germany on Monday morning, with regional trains also heavily affected, especially in North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria and the southwestern cities of Karlsruhe and Mannheim. There were also cancellations in Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania, Hamburg and Lower Saxony.

Services slowly resumed after 9 a.m. but disruptions are set to continue throughout the day, rail operator Deutsche Bahn said.

Workers walked off the job for four hours during rush-hour traffic after pay talks between Deutsche Bahn (DB) and the EVG rail trade union broke down without agreement.

The so-called warning strike came just a day after DB increased the price of rail tickets by an average of 1.9 percent.

What travelers need to know: 

  • The strikes started on Monday morning at 5 a.m. CET and ended around 9 a.m.
  • Long-distance trains as well as regional and city (S-Bahn) trains will continue to be affected throughout Monday.
  • DB has advised travelers to delay their travel plans until after the strike ends. The rail company has adjusted Monday's tickets to be valid throughout the week to Sunday. It said it would reimburse travelers who had to cancel travel plans because of the strikes.
  • The strikes also caused major disruption on the roads. Germany's most populous state, and one of the worst affected by the strike, North Rhine-Westphalia, saw a combined 450 kilometers (280 miles) of tailbacks, according to regional broadcaster WDR.

Further strikes threatened: Although no additional rail strikes have been announced yet, EVG warned that further warning strikes can be expected during the pre-Christmas rush. A separate union, the Union of German Locomotive Drivers (GDL), warned that its 36,000 members could also take action if wage negotiations talks fail.

Negotiations to continue: The EVG and GDL are expected to continue their talks with DB on Tuesday. "Out primary goal is to reach an agreement at the negotiating table," said Regina Rusch-Ziemba, EVG's chief negotiator.

EVG union workers with placards
The EVG union had asked for more pay, Deutsche Bahn called the strike action a 'superfluous escalation'Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Rosar

Dispute over pay: EVG, which represents some 160,000 rail workers, blamed DB bosses for the breakdown of talks early on Saturday morning in Hamburg, insisting the new pay scale offered by the rail firm was too low. The rail firm, meanwhile, called the walkout a "totally unnecessary escalation."

DB says it offered staff a total pay increase of 5.1 percent in two increments and a one-time payment of €500 ($569). EVG said it wants a 7.5 percent increase and the right for workers to forgo that increase for either more time off or shorter hours. GDL said it too wants a 7.5 percent wage increase for its members.

Busiest time of year: Monday's strike has caused widespread disapproval among rail passengers, who regularly complain about cancellations and trains being late, and endure some of the highest rail ticket prices in Europe.

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ng,rs/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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