German rail strike feared during World Cup

23rd January 2006, Comments 0 comments

23 January 2006, BERLIN - Fears grew in Germany Saturday of a railway strike in the middle of the football World Cup, the biggest event of this year in Germany, with two unions reportedly linking their threat to government privatization plans.

23 January 2006

BERLIN - Fears grew in Germany Saturday of a railway strike in the middle of the football World Cup, the biggest event of this year in Germany, with two unions reportedly linking their threat to government privatization plans.

Railways are the cornerstone of cross-country public transport in Germany, carrying more people than either buses or planes.

Deutsche Bahn are an official sponsor of the German World Cup organising committee for the June 9-July 9 tournament and committed to providing transport for large numbers of World Cup fans and visitors, officials and the media.

Norbert Hansen, chairman of one union, Transnet, was reported by both Der Spiegel, the weekly magazine, and Tagesspiegel am Sonntag, a Berlin Sunday newspaper, to have warned the government not to break up Germany's state-owned railway company.

Officials are considering splitting Deutsche Bahn into one company to own and lease the tracks and another to operate the rolling stock, with the latter then being privatized via a stock-market offering. Trade unionists fear the new "efficiency" would mean job losses.

Transnet would "resist, if necessary with strikes", said Hansen, saying a demerger could mean 50,000 people would lose their jobs and leave workers employed under "dramatically worse contracts".

A smaller trade union, GDBA, said earlier it would strike if the government forced through an operational demerger.

Hansen said he could not rule out a strike on July 9, the day the final of the World Cup is to be played in Berlin: "A strike has to take place when it's needed. That could be July 9 or earlier or later. The politicians will be responsible for the timing."

DPA

Subject: German news

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