Germany races headlong toward rail shutdown

7th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

The train drivers’ union says it will force a nationwide shutdown from Monday.

Berlin -- Germany was careering headlong toward an all-out rail strike, which would bring much of its industry grinding to a halt, after squabbling rail unions and the Deutsche Bahn rail company ignored a government appeal for compromise.

The GDL union of train drivers confirmed it would force passenger, freight and suburban trains to remain idle nationwide from Monday.

Deutsche Bahn published timetables for skeleton services to be operated by non-union drivers and asked other railways companies to provide engines to haul essential supplies to German factories.

Ulrich Wilhelm, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, criticized the escalation.

He appealed to the company, which is owned by Berlin but independently managed, and the GDL to end their dispute for the sake of other employees, rail customers and the German economy.

The conflict had nearly been settled after a year of running strikes on the railways. But the settlement failed when talks between GDL and two bigger unions, Transnet and GDBA, which have been friendlier towards the rail company, reached a deadlock Friday.

The management of Deutsche Bahn wants to stop the militant drivers dropping out of collective wage bargaining.

Most ordinary express trains would be idle from Monday, but it had scheduled journeys by about half of its ICE bullet trains, the company said.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said, "A strike would be immensely bad for the economy, for millions of passengers. We appeal to the common sense of both parties to come to a settlement at the last minute."

A separate wage strike shut down Berlin's municipal mass-transit services for a third consecutive day on day Friday.

Rolling strikes in Germany's public services were however put on hold until the end of this month, when public employers invoked German labour law to terminate wage negotiations with unions and put the issue to arbitrators. Strikes are illegal while that happens.

The services union Verdi had organized weeks of pinpoint strikes by nurses, refuse workers, airport workers, administrative staff and childcare professionals to press its pay demands.

DPA with Expatica

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