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German railways to see longest-ever strike

May 3, 2015

The GDL engine drivers' labor union has called a weeklong strike over wage and representation disputes with German railway operator Deutsche Bahn. The rail operator called the move "inappropriate and over the top."

Symbolbild Deutsche Bahn Streik Gleisanlage Zug Bahnverkehr
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Schmidt

Germany's GDL train drivers' union, locked in a long and bitter battle with employer Deutsche Bahn, called for a seven-day strike Sunday, the longest in Deutsche Bahn's history.

The employee action will begin with freight trains on Monday at 3 p.m. and grow to include passenger trains early Tuesday morning, continuing until Sunday morning. The strike is the eighth in the ongoing dispute. GDL has sought a 5 percent wage increase and wants the hours of the working week to be reduced from 39 to 37.

The key point of contention, however, is that the GDL, actually the smaller of Germany's two engine driver's unions with a membership of 20,000, wishes the right to independently represent around 17,000 train workers in other positions such as stewards, in collective bargaining procedures.

''The GDL has no other choice but to call its members out on strike," said GDL leader Claus Weselsky ahead of a more thorough news conference scheduled for Monday.

'Completely inappropriate'

Echoing previous comments Deutsch Bahn (DB) has made over the GDL strikes, the most recent of which came at the end of April, a statement from the national railway said: "This strike is completely inappropriate and over the top … The GDL union is going to cause massive harm to rail passengers, Deutsche Bahn and its employees - but also to the German economy."

DB transports about a fifth of the country's freight and 5.5 million private passengers a day. During the previous bout of strikes, the BDI industry federation accused GDL of costing the nation's economy "up to 100 million euros per day."

Last week GDL rejected an offer from Deutsche Bahn for a 4.7 percent pay increase and a one-time per-employee payment of 1,000 euros ($1,120) by the end of June. The two sides blame each other for the breakdown in negotiations.

es/gsw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)