German rail strike to end early, before Wall fall festivities

7th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

German train drivers said they would end a nationwide rail strike early, on Saturday at 1700 GMT, following days of travel chaos that sparked fierce criticism.

GDL trade union chief Claus Weselsky on Friday announced the early end to the industrial action, which started with freight services Wednesday, added passenger trains on Thursday, and had been due to continue until early Monday.

The large-scale strike, which has largely paralysed rail travel in Europe's biggest economy, will now end on the eve of celebrations Sunday in the capital to mark a quarter-century since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

Weselsky called the move a "gesture of reconciliation" when he made the surprise announcement in Frankfurt.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn had earlier legally challenged the unprecedented strike action, but two labour court rulings had found the union was within its rights to stop work.

The personnel chief of Deutsche Bahn, Ulrich Weber, called the latest development "good for our customers and our staff".

The work stoppage -- the sixth bout of industrial action since September -- hit long-distance and regional rail services as well as commuter S-Bahn train networks.

GDL has charged that Deutsche Bahn is stonewalling in talks over workers' demands for a five-percent wage hike and a shorter working week of 37 hours.

Union leaders also want to represent other groups of employees within Deutsche Bahn such as conductors, catering staff, dispatchers, and not just drivers.

© 2014 AFP

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