He knows what it means to endure the wrath of a whole country. The boss of GDL has often led hard and long strikes for the interests of his train drivers in the past. The tabloids have insulted Claus Weselsky as “great coaches” or “Weselsky demon”. He found his way to deal with it. When the Bild newspaper also printed its phone number for complaints, it quickly diverted calls to Rüdiger Grube, the railroad manager at the time.
This week, Weselsky will once again put the nerves to the test of his compatriots. This Tuesday at 11 am, the federal president of the train drivers union wants to announce what threatens the country after a poll. It is quite possible that this is the hardest strike that Deutsche Bahn has seen in a long time. Large numbers of trains may be left at the depot by the end of the week. A strike is never suitable. But now? While traveling, where does the corona situation currently make travel possible again?
For Weselsky, the thing is clear: it has to be. On the phone, the boss of GDL rushes into the tariff dispute with perfect knowledge of the route. It is again about more wages and better conditions for his people. Especially in view of the high inflation rate. What Weselsky Does Not Hold On To The Big Bell: This time the stakes are even greater. The work of his life.
Germany’s best-known train conductor has made the GDL perhaps the most powerful trade union in the country since 2008. It has extended its influence from the train conductors on the railroad to the rest of the train crew . She is currently trying to reach out to other professional groups. It is quite possible that she will succeed. In his own ranks, Weselsky is known as “Robin Hood” in the fight against management. In union elections, he always gets 90 to 95 percent approval.
But a law the railroad is now enforcing for the first time could massively reduce his union’s influence. This makes life difficult for the smaller of the two big railway unions. In many companies, only the collective agreement with the largest EVG union could apply in the future. The influence of GDL would likely dissipate.
At Deutsche Bahn, we know this is one of the main reasons it becomes dangerous. The conflict has been escalating internally for months and is also dividing the workforce. Weselsky played his part with his sharp choice of words. For him, companies and unions are not social partners. They have always been adversaries. Strategist Weselsky only begins to talk about compromise when his counterpart is weary. Weselsky’s will to fight does not come from the left camp. The 62-year-old is seen as a rather conservative member of the CDU.
Well-meaning observers are now also wondering how Weselsky wants to get out of escalation while saving face. The train wants to meet him. But the law cannot undermine them. In addition, the rival union EVG would have to agree to a compromise. Weselsky doesn’t have a lot of lawyers left. The situation in the group, of all things, in Deutsche Bahn’s biggest crisis after billions of corona losses, is now acting like it hasn’t for a long time.
The art of the train conductor is not at all to drive, said Weselsky. The art is to brake. “Let you sit the train down so the passengers aren’t shaken up.” Since 1992, Weselsky was no longer in the driver’s cab of a train as a member of the works council and union official. At the railroad, negotiators hope he has not forgotten the braking maneuvers as a civil servant. What about Weselski? He ended the phone call with a phrase that didn’t bode well for the railroad: He was sorry. But now he has to deal with the wage dispute – and really hit the gas.