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Germany: GDL train drivers' union announces next rail strike

March 10, 2024

The GDL trade union has called on members to go on strike for 24 hours, with passenger trains affected from early on Tuesday. Trains and planes in Germany have been facing regular disruption for months now.

A German train with its red brake lights on, stationary at Munich station. March 8, 2024.
It will be the second straight week of interruptions to trains and planes in GermanyImage: Sven Hoppe/dpa/picture alliance

The GDL train drivers' union on Sunday evening called the latest strike in its ongoing dispute over pay and hours with Deutsche Bahn (DB).

The union said in a statement that passenger services would be affected from 2 a.m. local time (0100 UTC/GMT) on Tuesday until the same time on Wednesday. 

Freight train drivers will start their strike at 6 p.m. on Monday, also downing tools for a 24-hour period, the GDL said. 

People standing on platforms at Berlin main train station during limited service and a rail strike. March 8, 2024.
Platforms were quieter than usual this week as wellImage: Hannes P Albert/dpa/picture alliance

Bahn wants further talks, GDL wants higher offer first

"Since the DB board has submitted no new offer from January 19 until now, this leads unavoidably to industrial action," GDL quoted its chairman Claus Weselsky as saying. "For the GDL this is the last resort." 

Deutsche Bahn, meanwhile, has called for the GDL to return to the negotiating table, with the union saying its precondition for this is an improved offer. The battle lines have hardened around this impasse for weeks now, with Tuesday's strikes to be the sixth as part of the dispute.

"We are convinced we will only achieve an agreement at the negotiating table," DB head of personnel Martin Seiler had said earlier on Sunday, in the backdrop of last week's GDL strike. 

German strikes hurting economy and travelers alike

One core demand of the GDL is a standard 35-hour work week replacing the current 38-hour week with no change in remuneration. DB has argued that this is both economically unfeasible and would exacerbate existing staffing and recruitment issues.

Bahn accuses GDL of overreaction, will try to offer 'basic service' 

Weselsky of the GDL said last week that the union would start a so-called "strike wave" and cease to give 48 hours' advanced warning for future strikes. Sunday's latest announcement allowed one working day for Deutsche Bahn to react.

Deutsche Bahn called this "a sheer imposition for millions of rail travelers and the economy."

"The strike will again have a massive impact on the entire rail network," DB said in a press release

It said that it would prioritize maintaining a basic service on both long-distance and regional services. It advised customers to check for information on their exact trains.

It also said that customers who had bought tickets tied to the day of the strike prior to it being announced would be welcome to travel at a later date without incurring extra fees.

Widespread train and plane disruptions in Germany

The most recent strikes as part of this dispute took place late last week, and coincided with industrial action affecting air travel in Germany.

Lufthansa has faced strike action from employees from several sectors and different trade unions in recent months.

Local public transport in a handful of states, including the most populous North Rhine-Westphalia, has also been affected.

Germany's central bank warned last month that the actions were liable to affect productivity.

msh/mm (AFP, dpa) 

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