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Germany's train drivers call for a six-day nationwide strike

January 22, 2024

The German Train Drivers' Union (GDL) is planning a strike that will last almost a week, starting in the early hours of Wednesday. The union said it rejected Deutsche Bahn's latest "allegedly improved" offer.

Travelers wait for a train on a crowded platform in November 2023, no train in sight
The rail union has announced a strike that would start early on Wednesday and run until the following Monday eveningImage: Bodo Marks/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's GDL trade union, whose members are mostly train drivers but also include other rail network employees, announced a six-day strike in the early hours of Monday morning. 

The planned industrial action will start at 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning — and a few hours earlier for freight services — and continue until 6 p.m. the following Monday. 

Although it's the latest in a series of GDL strikes, the threatened six-day action is set to last longer than those that have come before. 

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) had tried to tempt the union back to the negotiating table with a new offer on pay and conditions on Friday, which the GDL said it was rejecting. 

"With its third and supposedly improved offer, Deutsche Bahn has again shown that it is continuing its previous course of noncompliance and confrontation — there's no trace of a willingness to reconcile," the GDL said in its press release. 

Fourth strike in current dispute 

The new strike would be the fourth in the current row over pay between DB and the GDL. 

The GDL staged two large warning strikes late in 2023, and then another earlier in January that lasted three days and led to drastic reductions in available services

Germany's rail workers, farmers block transport

DB even tried and failed to stop the strikes earlier this month via a court injunction. This time, Deutsche Bahn will not ask the courts to block an upcoming six-day strike.

"After legal examination, there are currently no plans to obtain an injunction," Deutsche Bahn said on Monday, hours after GDL leaders announced plans for the strike. 

Martin Seiler, Deutsche Bahn's head of personnel, criticized the GDL on Friday, arguing it was using strikes not as a last resort, but as a means of self-promotion. 

GDL seeking increased pay and reduced hours

According to DB, its latest offer to the GDL foresaw a 4.8% pay increase on average for employees starting in August and a further 5% as of April 2025. 

DB has said the terms would also include a compensatory payment to account for inflation that would be fixed for a period of 32 months. 

Starting in 2026, it would also offer employees on shift rotations the option to move from an average of 38 hours a week to 37, or to receive extra pay if they do not wish to reduce their workload. 

The GDL, meanwhile, is calling for an extra €550 (about $600) a month before tax for employees, and an inflation compensation payment fixed only for a period of 12 months. 

It's also calling for an immediate reduction in shift workers' hours from 38 to 35, with no change in remuneration. 

DB said one reason this is not feasible is that it is already trying to recruit new staff, and reducing existing employees' hours by this much would exacerbate personnel shortages. 

msh/rm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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