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Germany's train drivers union had demanded a wage increase for drivers. Deutsche Bahn said the strike was an "unnecessary escalation" in wage negotiations.
Germany's train drivers will go on strike starting Tuesday night through Friday morning, the GDL train drivers' union said, after negotiations with rail operator Deutsche Bahn fell through.
GDL head Claus Weselsky said 95% of the union's members voted in favor of the labor stoppage. "That is more than we expected. The results shows very clearly the mood among Deutsche Bahn's personnel," Weselsky said.
The strike would be the first hitting rail traffic since December 2018, when drivers stopped working for four hours. It will affect regional and long-distance trains all over the country.
Both freight and passenger rail across Germany will be affected by the strike. Deutsche Bahn's cargo drivers are said to cease operations at 19:00 local time (17:00 UTC), while passenger rail will be affected starting 02:00.
Hundreds of thousands of travelers will be affected by the strike, though customers who have already bought tickets will be entitled to refunds. It remains unclear how Deutsche Bahn will handle the disruption in freight and supply lines.
It all comes during the busy summer holiday season and as rail travel has picked up, due to diminishing coronavirus restrictions.
Nonetheless, GDL has demanded a 3.2% wage increase and a one-time coronavirus allowance of $600 ($703) for its drivers.
But Deutsche Bahn is already struggling to cover some €1.3 billion euros ($1.52 billion) worth of damage caused by the historic flooding that hit western Germany last month.
The firm called the decision to strike this week an "unnecessary escalation on the back of rail customers."
"Just as people are travelling more again and using trains, GDL leaders are destroying the upswing that we urgently need given the huge damage from the coronavirus pandemic," said Martin Seiler, DB board member for human resources and legal affairs.
But Weselsky shot back at the company, accusing DB managers of "lining their pockets while the little guys are getting their pockets picked."
The union boss stressed that there is never a good time to strike, but that the labor stoppage would end Friday morning, to not disrupt weekend travel.
jcg/aw (dpa, AFP, Reuters)