Rail strikes halted in Germany ahead of talks | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 26.10.2010
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Rail strikes halted in Germany ahead of talks

After delays and cancellations to train services on Tuesday, rail passengers won't face any more strike action, for this week at least. Thousands of staff walked out in a dispute over pay imbalances.

A passenger waiting for a train

Commuters faced disruption in the morning rush hour

Strikes over wage discrepancies on the German railways on Tuesday have been called off, ahead of another round of negotiations on Friday. Rail unions Transnet and GDBA said further stoppages were unlikely this week.

Transport unions are calling for greater wage equality. They say private operators pay their workers significantly less than the national operator Deutsche Bahn.

In total around 1,700 staff at Deutsche Bahn and other private rail companies walked out on Tuesday, according to the unions. The action, which began before the morning rush hour, came to an end at around 11a.m.

Although the dispute centered on regional train operators, the strikes also affected long-distance services. Deutsche Bahn said their free service hotline had been overwhelmed with calls.

"We hope that people have understood the message," commented the head of Transnet, Alexander Kirchner.

The union made clear that there would be more strikes, if there was no progress in talks between the unions and private rail companies later in the week.

Regional strikes caused national disruption

The strikes began in the states of North-Rhine Westphalia and Bavaria on Tuesday morning. By 8 a.m. there were problems in almost every state in the country. Hub stations Munich, Frankfurt and Cologne were particularly badly affected, with delays on both local and long-distance services.

Deutsche Bahn said it regretted that its services had been so hard hit by the strikes, particularly since the dispute centers on other companies.

"We're astonished by the depth of interference in the public transport network," said Deutsche Bahn spokesman Ulrich Homburg.

High speed train

Long-distance and regional trains were affected

Rail unions are asking for pay rises from six of Germany's smaller regional rail operators.

The unions said that Abellio, Benex, Keolis, Veolia, Hessische Landesbahn and Arriva paid staff as much as 20 percent less than the national operator paid its rail workers.

"The responsibility for this escalation lies clearly with the employers," said a statement published on Transnet's website. "We have been made an offer that would exacerbate the pay difference even further, and it was declared, at the same time, that this was the final offer."

Germany allocates regional services to private groups by tender, in line with European Union law. Almost all of the country's tracks belong to Deutsche Bahn, which other firms pay to use.

A spokesman for the independent operators said that major concessions had already been made in negotiations and that the firms "have no sympathy whatsoever for this strike."

Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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