German union calls five-day rail strike

4th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

The German train drivers' union called a strike from Wednesday until next Monday in the latest round of a bitter labour dispute that has wrought chaos for travellers.

The GDL union said in a statement that it would stage work stoppages hitting freight trains from 1400 GMT on Wednesday and passenger trains from 0100 GMT on Thursday, with both due to stop at 0300 GMT on Monday.

It is the sixth bout of industrial action to target the national rail operator Deutsche Bahn since September amid one of the most protracted labour disputes in the company's history.

The union has accused Deutsche Bahn of 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.

It's a demand which management has rejected.

"We want to and must act in the interests of our members," GDL chief Claus Weselsky said in a statement Tuesday.

"This basic right is in danger and with it, the purpose of trade unions.

We have received a wage decree and are now supposed to conduct hollow negotiations for train personnel and become a paper tiger.

That is exactly what the employers want.

" The magnitude of the work stoppages has been surprising in a country where warning strikes rarely last more than a day.

The last time Deutsche Bahn was hit by an industrial dispute as serious as this was in 2007-2008.

Berlin is working on legislation to stop small groups of employees from paralysing large parts of the country's transport infrastructure, such as rail and air travel, after several disruptive airline strikes.

A draft law is expected this month.

Deutsche Bahn has slammed the strikes, accusing union leader Weselsky of putting his own "delusions of omnipotence" and "thirst for power" before the interests of the train drivers and passengers.

This weekend Germany will be marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the work stoppages are likely to cause travel chaos in much of the country.

In addition to the rail strikes, travellers in Germany have also been hit recently by repeated walkouts by pilots of airlines within the Lufthansa group.

© 2014 AFP

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