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Germany: New train strike possible after wage talks collapse

February 29, 2024

Rail passengers in Germany could be facing another wave of strikes after wage talks between rail operator Deutsche Bahn and the train drivers union collapsed.

High-speed ICE trains in Frankfurt stand on tracks during a previous strike
Could more strikes be in store for Germany's rail passengers?Image: Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

Wage negotiations between German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) and the train drivers' union GDL broke down again on Thursday, raising the possibility of further rail strikes.

A DB spokesperson said that the state-owned rail operator had made "far-reaching compromises" but that the GDL was "sticking dogmatically to [demands for] a 35-hour week with unchanged pay."

DB human resources director Martin Seiler said the company was "prepared to take steps towards a reduction in working hours which go far beyond our previous offer" but said the union has "refused to move a single millimeter in the last four weeks."

But GDL representatives accused the Bahn of "leaking" confidential details from the talks to the press and quit the negotiations. After mass-market newspaper Bild published details from the talks, GDL representatives said the information could only have come from DB sources since the union has not spoken to the newspaper "for years" due to its "tendentious and blaming" reporting.

The GDL wouldn't comment on the negotiations themselves but announced a press conference for Monday.

6-day train strike paralyzes rail transport in Germany

What are the rail union's demands?

The GDL is still sticking to its core demand for a reduction in weekly working hours for shift workers from 38 to 35 hours. In addition, the union, led by Claus Weselsky, also wants to negotiate collective agreements for parts of railway infrastructure.

DB has so far rejected both points.

The GDL has paralyzed large parts of rail traffic in Germany four times with two strikes and two longer strikes. Long-distance, regional and freight transport came to a standstill for days.

The latest news comes during an ongoing two-day local public transport strike called by another union, Verdi, in several federal states.

mf/sms (dpa, AFP)

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