Longest Strike Halts Germany’s Train Services

Longest Strike Halts Germany's Train Services

Longest Strike Halts Germany's Train Services

The ongoing labor dispute between Deutsche Bahn (DB) and the German Train Drivers’ Union (GDL) has escalated as train drivers in Germany commenced their longest strike to date. This strike, which started at 2:00 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) on Wednesday, is expected to have a significant impact on thousands of passengers and could potentially result in a loss of up to €1 billion ($1.1 billion) for the economy. The strike for passenger traffic will continue until 6 p.m. on Monday, while the strike for freight trains began a day earlier.

German Train Strike Initiates with DB Implementing Provisional Timetable

Deutsche Bahn has officially announced that its temporary emergency schedule is currently in effect, resulting in only 20% of long-distance trains operating. In light of this, the company strongly advises passengers to verify the status of their intended connection beforehand, secure seat reservations to ensure a spot, and contemplate rescheduling their trip if it is not absolutely essential. Additionally, during the strike, tickets designated for particular trains can be utilized for alternative services.

The strike’s impact on local services varies across different regions, affecting various regional, urban, and suburban services operated by private companies like National Express or Eurobahn. In the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, the strike affected 41 out of the slightly more than half (42) of the regional services running normally. However, the strike’s influence on the DB infrastructure could still affect even the unaffected services.

Longest Strike Halts Germany’s Train Services

In Hamburg, traffic coordinators observed an increase in motorway traffic congestion as morning commuters opted for the Autobahn. A planned farmers’ protest, featuring approximately 100 tractors parading into the city center, may cause additional disruptions for the evening commute home before a scheduled demonstration at 7 p.m. local time.

Despite concerns about potential ripple effects on other sectors of the economy, Hamburg harbor and logistics operators reported no significant limitations at container terminals resulting from the freight train strike.

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Politicians Voice Renewed Criticism

However, the GDL is facing increasing pressure as politicians from the conservative opposition CDU/CSU are advocating for stricter laws to make future strikes of this magnitude more challenging.

CDU lawmaker Gitta Connemann emphasizes that completing an arbitration process before resorting to strikes is crucial for handling critical infrastructure, not the reverse order. She expressed this viewpoint during an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio.

Martin Huber, the general secretary of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of the CDU, supported Connemann’s stance and emphasized the need for a suitable deadline for strikes.

Furthermore, the railway industry has also criticized the unprecedented six-day strike. The “Pro Rail Alliance” distanced itself from the industrial action, expressing concerns that it may discourage many passengers from choosing rail travel in the future. Dirk Flege, the chief executive of the alliance, called for a reduction in both the rhetoric and actions surrounding the strike.

Enduring Dispute: Navigating the Long-Running Challenges

This marks the fourth occurrence of a rail strike by GDL since November, signifying a further intensification of the ongoing dispute between GDL and Deutsche Bahn regarding salaries and work hours.

Remarkably, this strike follows closely after the previous walkout staged by rail employees on January 10 and 12.

The most recent direct negotiations between GDL and DB occurred at the conclusion of November 2023. On Monday, GDL announced that it had declined an improved offer, which included salary increases and a one-time payment to offset inflation.

Longest Strike Halts Germany’s Train Services

In addition to this, GDL aims to reduce the weekly working hours for shift workers from 38 to 35 hours without any reduction in salary. While Deutsche Bahn has proposed a reduction to 37 hours starting in 2026, they argue that the union’s demands are impractical due to the exacerbation of existing staff shortages.

‘Strike against German economy’

Tanja Gönner, the managing director of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), stated that losses amounting to €1 billion are not unrealistic due to the six-day strike. The strike is seen as a direct attack on the German economy, according to Anja Broeker, a spokesperson for Deutsche Bahn. She emphasized that the strike affects cargo traffic, including supplies for power plants and refineries.

Despite efforts by DB Cargo to secure the supply chain, Broeker acknowledged that there will still be some impact. Deutsche Bahn estimates that each strike will result in a low two-digit million figure in costs, but experts predict even greater economic losses.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing labeled the strike “destructive” and voiced concern about its added strain on already overburdened supply chains, impacted by Houthis’ attacks on Red Sea shipping routes in Yemen.

Wissing criticized the blocking of trains during non-negotiation periods, stating it is unfair to train travelers. He believes that both parties should be at the negotiating table instead.

Claus Weselsky, the head of GDL, defended the strike as proportionate, legal, and permitted. He argued that the strike needs to be stronger and longer because the management of Deutsche Bahn is not receptive to advice.

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