The striking locomotive drivers in Germany are fighting for wage increases and better working conditions. The passengers who wait in vain for their train are left behind.
Two tough days have begun for German rail travelers and commuters. A strike by the train drivers’ union GDL has evidently started and largely paralyzes the passenger transport of Deutsche Bahn. The replacement plan has started, said a rail spokesman on Wednesday morning. “The first effects of the strike are noticeable,” he said.
Although the GDL was not available for information during the night, the passenger trains in many stations stood still on Wednesday morning, the platforms were empty, as photos showed. “Train is canceled” was often seen on the display boards for various travel destinations. The strike is said to have started at 2:00 a.m. The union has been striking the freight traffic since Tuesday evening.
Thousands of passengers have to improvise, substitute timetables apply. In long-distance traffic, around every fourth train should still run. There are also likely to be considerable failures in regional traffic and on the S-Bahn. The strike is due to end on Friday night.
The railway asked passengers to postpone journeys that were not absolutely necessary. Because of the corona virus, she also called for consideration on the trains. The strike hits the passengers in the middle of the busy holiday season: In 11 of the 16 German federal states there are school holidays. Cross-border connections and subsequent travel are also affected.
Bahn personnel director Martin Seiler described the strike as “completely inappropriate and excessive”. GDL boss Claus Weselsky referred to the unresolved collective bargaining conflict. “With this first signal it must become clear to the management that eating cherries is not good with us.”
The passenger association Pro Bahn called for reliable information to be provided to rail customers. “Nothing is more annoying than waiting for a train during a strike that doesn’t run.” The association called on the railway and the GDL to find a solution to their conflict in an arbitration.
The train drivers’ union is fighting for more money and better working conditions for its members at Deutsche Bahn. Unlike the larger railway and transport union (EVG), it does not want to accept a zero round in salaries this year. The GDL also wants to score points with the employees in the power struggle with the EVG.
Competitors of Deutsche Bahn are not on strike. They have considerable market shares in regional and freight transport. However, restrictions are also possible for them if dispatchers also join the GDL strike. It is the first strike at Deutsche Bahn since December 2018, when the EVG called on its members to take part in a labor dispute. The GDL last stopped working six years ago.
Among other things, it calls for wage increases, such as in the public sector, of around 3.2 percent and a significant corona bonus in the current year. The term of the collective agreement should be 28 months. There is also a struggle for company pensions.
Due to billions in losses in the pandemic, the railway wants to distribute the increase to later stages, with a contract term of 40 months. In addition, there are pension benefits and the exclusion of redundancies for operational reasons.