German train drivers strike work over pay and work hours

18 October 2014

German rail travelers yesterday were faced delays and disruptions on one of autumn's busiest travel weekends with the train drivers' union launching one of its largest strikes in recent years, AFP reported.

According to a statement by Deutsche Bahn, only a third of traffic on major lines was running. The statement added that service would be assured on around 30 per cent of regional and city lines.

The GDL union, in its biggest strike since 2008 called on its members to walk out from 3:00 pm yesterday on freight services and from 2:00 am on Saturday on long-distance and regional passenger services.

The stoppages on traditionally one of the busiest weekends in the autumn because of a school holiday, were due to last until 4:00 am on Monday.

According to the union, the national rail operator Deutsche Bahn stone-walled talks over its demands for a 5 per cent wage hike and a shorter working week of 37 hours.

Slamming the union over the latest industrial action, the fifth in recent weeks and terming it excessive. It accused GDL chief Claus Weselsky of putting his own "delusions of omnipotence" and "thirst for power" before the interests of the train drivers and passengers.

In addition to its demand of 5 per cent pay increase and shorter working hours, the union had demanded to negotiate for other staff traditionally represented by a rival union, which according to commentators was a bigger sticking point, Euronews reported.

Deutsche Bahn said it offered a raise of 5 per cent over 30 months yesterday for the drivers but would not accept rival pay deals for other employees. The response was by GDL as a "sham offer."

Deutsche Bahn plans to operate 30 per cent of scheduled long-distance trains.

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