Train drivers predict goods strike to have 'massive effect'

8th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

8 November 2007, Berlin - A two-day strike by German goods train drivers got underway Thursday with union leaders refusing to return to the negotiating table unless state-owned rail company Deutsche Bahn (DB) made a significantly revised offer.

8 November 2007

Berlin  - A two-day strike by German goods train drivers got underway Thursday with union leaders refusing to return to the negotiating table unless state-owned rail company Deutsche Bahn (DB) made a significantly revised offer.

"We predict that goods traffic will be massively affected," the deputy chairman of the militant GDL union, Claus Weselsky, told national commercial news broadcaster n-tv shortly before the 42-hour strike began at midday.

If DB did not concede the key demand of a separate labour contract for the company's 19,600 drivers, as well as a substantial pay rise, further strikes next week would target passenger as well as goods traffic, Weselsky said.

Karl Heinz Daehre, transport minister in the state of Saxony- Anhalt, predicted chaos on the roads as a result of the strike, which was due to last until 6 am Saturday.

Daehre predicted an extended strike would result in costs to the German economy above 100 million euros (145 million dollars) a day. Transport economist Claudia Kemfert of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) has put the figure at 50 million euros.

Weselsky acknowledged that the GDL would not be able to shut down entirely the 4,800 goods trains that use the German rail network daily, as 45 per cent of the drivers concerned belonged to another union.

Nevertheless, Juergen Thumann, president of the Confederation of German Industry (BDI), said a protracted goods strike would effectively shut down many business at a time of booming exports.

"The damage to businesses and the German economy would be immense," Thumann said, appealing for a rapid end to the dispute.

The motor vehicle, steel and chemicals industry were expected to be worst hit, along with coal deliveries to power stations.

Since July, the GDL has repeatedly shut down commuter traffic for brief periods in support of demands for a separate contract and a 31- per-cent wage hike.

On Friday last week, a labour court lifted a ban on strikes targeting goods and long-distance passenger traffic, opening the way for the 15,500 drivers to paralyse the vital rail network.

DPA

Subject: German news

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