Rail strike shuts down goods services across Germany

9th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

9 November 2007, Berlin - A train drivers strike paralysed goods traffic in Germany's eastern states and also hit the west of the country Friday, although most large manufacturing companies said production had not been seriously affected.

9 November 2007

Berlin - A train drivers strike paralysed goods traffic in Germany's eastern states and also hit the west of the country Friday, although most large manufacturing companies said production had not been seriously affected.

The strike, which began midday Thursday and was set to end midday Saturday, is aimed at pressuring the state-owned Deutsche Bahn (DB) into signing a separate wage contract with drivers and agreeing to a substantial pay increase.

DB board member Norbert Bensel said 60 per cent of the trains crossed international borders and the strike was causing problems in neighbouring countries.

"Please stop this. Don't damage the German economy," he said, warning of lasting damage to rail services as freight customers switched to road haulage.

Even though not all trains were directly affected, the nature of goods traffic meant that lines and yards quickly became clogged, he said.

DB Human Resources head Margret Suckale accused the militant GDL, which represents around 15,500 of Germany's 19,600 train drivers, of refusing to return to the negotiating table to discuss a DB offer made in the middle of last month.

"We have ideas, but no negotiating partner," she said.

But Suckale said no new offer was on the table. DB has rejected the GDL's key demand of a separate contract.

Some 1,000 drivers heeded the strike call, halting 95 per cent of trains in the eastern states and some two thirds in the west.

Carmakers VW and BMW said production was continuing as normal. "We do not anticipate any major effects on production up to the end of the strike," a VW spokesman at company headquarters in Wolfsburg said.

Steelmakers ThyssenKrupp and Salzgitter also said they had been relatively unaffected, although the steel sector warned that an extended strike could seriously damage production.

Despite being one of the main targets, the north-eastern port of Rostock on the Baltic coast continued to operate.

"The trains are being unloaded and the ferries loaded, although there are problems here and there," port spokesman Christian Hardt said.

GDL boss Manfred Schell claimed 1,800 goods train drivers had heeded the strike call and that around 1,000 of the 5,000 goods trains that DB runs daily had been halted.

"The longer the strike lasts, the more trains are affected," Schell said.

Schell threatened to expand the strike next week to hit the commuter and long-distance passenger traffic used by around 5 million people daily.

Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee Friday renewed his call for the two sides to return to the negotiation table to avoid major damage to the German economy.

According to an opinion poll taken by public television, 57 per cent of the population back the train drivers, while 39 per cent are opposed.

DPA

Subject: German news

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