Massive strikes by train drivers largely crippled rail traffic in Germany for the second time this month. On Monday, 70% of all long-distance trains and 60% of all regional trains operated by Deutsche Bahn across Germany broke down. The strike once again affected millions of travelers and commuters. Germans must be prepared for train cancellations and massive delays until Wednesday morning at 2 a.m. Only then will rail traffic return to normal. The train again called on passengers to postpone trips if possible.
Despite an “emergency schedule” for the railroads, nothing went on the rails in many places. Between major cities such as Berlin and Dresden as well as Leipzig and Nuremberg, the railway had to use a total of 200 buses to get travelers to their destinations. Bahnspitze’s offer to negotiate a corona premium also no longer avoided the strike. GDL rejected the offer on Monday and requested a full price offer.
It becomes more and more likely that the labor dispute will escalate even further in a few days. GDL boss Claus Weselsky openly threatened Monday with a third and even longer nationwide shutdown. Don’t give in, “we’ll be announcing the next industrial action, and I think it will be longer,” Weselsky said. However, speculation that Germany was threatened with an indefinite strike, as in the 2014/15 collective bargaining war, was dismissed by a GDL spokesperson as rumor.
For affected travelers, fair rules apply during strike days. If a train is canceled due to the strike or if travelers miss a connection, they can change trains at no additional cost. Tickets purchased on strike days remain valid until September 4 and can be used flexibly. In the case of economy fares and super economy fares, the rail link is canceled. The railway accused the GDL on Monday of not wanting to negotiate at all. The GDL speaks of a “political fight and not a solution at the negotiating table,” said a spokesperson for the company.
The fronts between the group and the union have hardened for months. The GDL is calling for a total wage increase of 3.2 percent. The railway also offers it, but less quickly and with a much longer duration than that required by the union. The labor dispute has escalated, however, mainly because the GDL is in a power struggle with the group and the larger rival union EVG for influence over the railways. The GDL feels disadvantaged by the law on collective bargaining. According to this, a collective agreement only applies when the union concerned has a majority. In the conflict of collective bargaining, it demands to be able to extend its influence to other sectors of the group.
The German economy has severely criticized the recent shutdown, which also affects freight traffic, and warned of the long-term consequences. “These strikes are increasingly becoming an incalculable burden, not only on the economy, but also on society as a whole,” said BDI chairman Siegfried Russwurm. Businesses should switch to trucks – and could stick to them. “With a number of transport chains now being transferred to the road due to strikes, it will be difficult for the railways to win them back,” Russwurm said. The GDL is doing a “disservice” to the goal of getting more goods on track in the future, also for reasons of climate protection.