Collective Bargaining in Railways: Train drivers go on strike in passenger transport

As of: January 24, 2024 9:15 am

Train drivers' union GDL has begun its longest strike at Deutsche Bahn. Passenger transport has also been on strike since 2:00 am. Commuters should be prepared for significant disruptions through Monday evening.

The German Locomotive Drivers Association (GDL) has launched the fourth and longest train drivers' strike to date in Deutsche Bahn's passenger transport. Significant restrictions have been imposed on train services from this morning. For long-distance transport, customers can check the railway's emergency timetable online, the company said. Regular timetable information on the internet shows whether the train is running or not.

A railway spokesperson explained that the rush hour schedule for passenger traffic started smoothly during the night. “We are seeing that many of the passengers were able to bring their journey forward or postpone it to a later date.” According to Deutsche Bahn, 80 percent of long-distance trains have been canceled, similar to previous strikes. There are also significant restrictions on regional transport, the spokesman said. Recently, these vary greatly from region to region.

Controversial point reduction Weekly working hours

GDL under its boss Klaus Weselski wants to halt most rail traffic for six days. The freight strike began at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, while the passenger strike began at 2:00 am. The industrial dispute is expected to last until Monday evening, marking the first time in the current collective bargaining standoff that it has spanned an entire weekend.

In addition to financial demands, the collective bargaining dispute primarily revolves around the issue of reduced weekly work hours for shift workers. GDL wants to reduce this from 38 hours to 35 hours while keeping wages the same. The Railways has so far offered an optional model of reducing one hour with full pay. Anyone who decides against it will get an extra 2.7 percent instead.

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Union boss Veselski sees the offer as no basis for further negotiations. He said the railways was not open to negotiations and therefore the strike was “legal, proportionate and permissible”.

Specifies GDL requests

In a letter to the Railways, GTL updated its fare demands and mentioned some of them. “This is based on the collective bargaining agreements we have been able to reach with our collective bargaining partners in recent weeks,” GDL said in a letter released today. For example, a timetable is proposed to reduce weekly working hours for shift workers from 38 to 35 hours by 2028 without financial losses.

The Railways again rejected GDL's proposals as a basis for further negotiations. A spokesman said it was simply “repeating well-known maximum claims”. That morning, the railways invited the union back to the negotiating table. “We are ready to meet anytime and anywhere for negotiations and discussions,” a spokesman said.

Several rallies are planned

GDL boss Veselski criticized Morning magazine Van ARD And ZDF: “What Deutsche Bahn AG is doing is nothing more than repeatedly rejecting all requests.” The train moves only millimetres. Asked when the union would resume negotiations, the trade unionist said: “As soon as Deutsche Bahn gets off its high horse.”

The GDL has called several strike rallies over the next few days, which are expected to include the union's executive committee. Demonstrations will take place in Stuttgart on Thursday, where Weselsky is also expected, as well as in Nuremberg, Hamburg, Erfurt and Halle/Sale. Actions are scheduled for Friday in Berlin and Dortmund.

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Big impacts on industry too

There will be significant restrictions not only on travelers but also on German industry. In particular, industries with a high proportion of rail freight should adapt. “The announced six-day rail strike is putting a strain on transport logistics in Germany and Europe, and thus on companies in the German automotive industry,” the Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) said.

Similar views were expressed by the chemical industry, which handles a lot of traffic by rail. “Companies quickly developed flexible solutions with their customers and logistics service providers,” according to the Chemical Industry Association. “But these can only partially compensate for constraints and delays in rail logistics.”

The strike takes a heavy toll on the economy: “A one-day nationwide rail strike costs around 100 million euros a day in economic output,” said Michael, head of economic activity at the German Institute of Economic Affairs (IW Cologne) for employer affairs. Gromling. As the strike that has just been announced has been announced for six days, the costs have not increased linearly, but at times multiplied. “We are quickly approaching a billion euros in damage,” Gromling said.

Kahneman calls for stricter rules

CDU Bundestag member Kita Kahneman has called for the law to be toughened to prevent such strikes in the future. “In critical infrastructure, the arbitration procedure must be completed first before a strike can take place,” the head of the SME and Economic Union (MIT) told Deutschlandfunk. This should be enshrined in law in future.

Second, there must be a legal obligation for the emergency service and third, there must be prior notice of the strike. Strikes should be prohibited on public holidays. No talks on rail strike since November 24; The GDL had lost “sobriety and center,” Kahneman criticized. “Clearly the problem is with GDL.” GDL boss Veselsky “takes the entire country hostage.”

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Kahneman said other EU countries have long had strict legal provisions for strikes on critical infrastructure. “Nobody wants to ban strikes in any sector. But when it comes to energy supply, emergency services, railways or airports, strikes should be a last resort.” The politician pointed out that the GDL would also affect neighboring European countries and further cripple Germany's already poor economy. “Six out of ten European freight routes run through Germany. That means other countries will also be affected,” he criticized.

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