Thursday June 20, 2024

German rail operator slashing 80% of long distance links in strike

Published : 16 Nov 2023, 02:28

  By Matthias Arnold, dpa
Passengers stand in front of the display board at Duesseldorf main station. The German Train Drivers' Union (GDL) had called for a 20-hour warning strike at Deutsche Bahn AG. Photo: Oliver Berg/dpa.

The German rail operator has cancelled talks with the German Train Drivers' Union (GDL) and is slashing more than 80% of its long-distance services late Wednesday due to the union's strike, it said.

Railway travellers must brace themselves for a severely restricted service due to industrial action by the union, operator Deutsche Bahn said.

The strike is due to run from 10 pm (2100 GMT) until 6 pm on Thursday, with drivers, train attendants, workshop staff and dispatchers called on to join the industrial action.

Not all long distance services are cancelled but "we expect that less than 20% of Intercity and ICE trains will be running," the spokesman said.

Deutsche Bahn has set up an emergency timetable, he said. The rail operator will mostly be using longer trains in order to try and balance out the reduction in services.

Some connections are to be cut before the strike starts to ensure the trains are where they need to be at the end of the walkout, spokesman Achim Stauß said.

"Experience has shown that there will also be massive restrictions in regional transport," he said. "We also expect that trains will not be able to run at all in some regions."

Deutsche Bahn urged passengers to check online before travelling.

Rail freight transport will also be significantly affected.

Alongside train staff, the GDL also called on dispatchers to strike, which would mean cancellations by other rail providers, too, according to spokesman Stauß.

He described the walkout as "an imposition for our passengers," saying the operator and union had agreed to keep talking.

Deutsche Bahn then cancelled the next round of wage negotiations with GDL, according to operator board member Martin Seiler has said.

"Either you go on strike or you negotiate. You can't do both at the same time," said Seiler, Deutsche Bahn's chief human resources officer.

The talks were initially planned for Thursday and Friday.

At initial negotiations, the two sides had agreed on a timetable for the collective bargaining round, with negotiations initially planned on a weekly basis.

"Anyone who breaks these agreements in this form and calls for strikes at short notice... cannot expect us to continue sitting at the negotiating table," said Seiler.

During the initial talks, Deutsche Bahn made the union an offer that did not include its core demand to reduce working hours for shift workers from 38 to 35 hours with full pay.

Meanwhile ahead of the strike, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) interrupted its synod, with many members of the church parliament departing early from the event ahead of the restrictions.

The talks are due to continue online, according to the church parliament, which is setting a new date for the resolution of motions in coming days. The synod started on Sunday, with members discussing political and social issues and church laws.