National rail strike averted at last moment in Germany

10th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

The strike threatened to cripple Germany.

Berlin -- A national rail strike that threatened to cripple Germany was called off at the last moment on Sunday after a deal between train drivers and the state-owned railway Deutsche Bahn.

GDL union leader Manfred Schell said drivers would continue working normally instead of going on strike from midnight, following an end to the contract dispute with employers.

Deutsche Bahn chief Hartmut Mehdorn said the rail operator had agreed terms with the GDL and its two rival unions, Transnet and the GDBA, who represent the bulk of the railway's employees.

The rail operator had wanted all three unions to harmonize their positions on collective wage bargaining before signing a contract it agreed with the drivers' union in January.

The deal, which had been due to come into force on March 1, envisaged an 11-per-cent pay raise for the 15,000 train drivers the GDL represents.

   The sides met for four hours on Saturday and continued their discussions on Sunday before the agreement was announced.

The GDL had planned to halt passenger, freight and suburban trains indefinitely from Monday.

   Deutsche Bahn applied for a court injunction against the strike, arguing that the GDL had no legal right to close down essential services in what was a demarcation dispute among unions.

   If it had gone ahead, the strike would have affected around half of all regional passenger services in the west of Germany and about 90 per cent in the eastern part of the country, where the GDL has more members.

   Deutsche Bahn said there would be minor disruptions on Monday because there was not enough time to change the emergency schedule it had drawn up to cushion the effects of a strike.

   Germany's Ministry of Transport had warned a strike would have had a damaging effect on the economy and called on the parties to come to a settlement at the last minute.

   The cancellation of the strike was a major relief to commuters in Berlin where a separate labour dispute shut down the capital's municipal mass-transit services for a fifth consecutive day Sunday.

   Rolling strikes in Germany's public services affecting hospitals, airports and childcare centres were put on hold Friday to give arbitrators a chance to resolve a dispute over pay and working hours.

The dispute with the drivers had dragged on for more than 11 months.

Last year, repeated strikes hit commuter traffic in major cities and spread to the freight sector, threatening to paralyze the vital steel, auto and chemicals industries.

DPA with Expatica

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