Some 92 percent of GDL union members working for national rail provider Deutsche Bahn and 96 percent of those working for six private regional competitors voted to increase pressure in a labour dispute that could deliver a crippling blow to German train traffic.
The union has staged a number of temporary strikes over the last two weeks, angering both employers and countless passengers with massive delays and cancellations.
GDL leader Claus Weselsky said its members could walk off the job soon “as long as we don't receive offers from the employers.”
While no strike had been scheduled for Tuesday, the GDL said it was likely to take action during this week.
“There are enough reasons for us to continue fighting together for our goals, even with longer strikes,” Weselsky said.
The GDL has demanded wage increases for some 26,000 regional, long-haul and freight train drivers. They are hoping to get 105 percent of the current average wage at Deutsche Bahn. Many private train companies pay their drivers up to 30 percent less than Deutsche Bahn wage levels.
Over the weekend the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) said that an extended strike by train drivers could have serious consequences for the country's economy.
DIHK boss Martin Wansleben told the Berliner Zeitung on Saturday that the economy was dependent on a reliable transport system.
"Many industries depend on 'just-in-time' production," said Wansleben. "It would only take a few days for strikes in rail-freight transport to cause production disruptions, because cancelled train consignments can often not be immediately re-routed via road or domestic ship."
Wansleben was responding to a warning from the train drivers' union GDL that they want to concentrate more strikes on freight.