German rail system faces severe strike disruption
6 August 2007, BERLIN, (AFP) - The German rail network is set to be hit by widespread disruption after train drivers voted on Monday in favour of what could be the most serious rail strike for 15 years.
6 August 2007
BERLIN, (AFP) - The German rail network is set to be hit by widespread disruption after train drivers voted on Monday in favour of what could be the most serious rail strike for 15 years.
More than 95 percent of drivers voted to stage a walkout, possibly starting on Wednesday.
The drivers' union, GDL, is calling for a 31-percent rise in salary which would take net pay up to 2,500 euros (3,450 dollars) a month.
The union has flatly rejected an offer of a 4.5-percent rise spread over a 19-month period with a 600-euro (827-dollar) bonus.
GDL boss Manfred Schell said he had rejected rail operator Deutsche Bahn's offer of talks because their proposal fell far short of the demands of the 34,000 members represented by the union.
The drivers argue that their salaries fail to reflect the buoyant state of the German economy.
Deutsche Bahn chief executive Hartmut Mehdorn angrily told this week's Der Spiegel magazine: "What is happening here has overstepped the mark... the demands are ridiculous.
"We are already losing millions every day."
After a series of crippling strikes, Deutsche Bahn struck a deal last month with the Transnet and GDBA rail workers' unions under which employees will receive a 4.5-percent salary hike spread over 19 months from January 2008 as well as a bonus of 600 euros (829 dollars).
The company said it was the steepest wage gain offered to its employees since the end of World War II.
GDL however broke ranks with the two other unions.
The company has brought legal action in a handful of regional courts in an attempt to block a drivers' strike.
A severe strike would be a blow to the image of Deutsche Bahn, which is to have 49 percent of its capital privatised from 2008.
About 10 million people daily use trains in Germany, the highest figure in the 27-nation European Union.
A transport ministry spokeswoman called on both sides to resume negotiations.
Subject: German news