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Deutsche Bahn rejects drivers' strike ultimatum

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Deutsche Bahn rejects drivers' strike ultimatum
Train drivers' union (GDL) leader Claus Weselsky with a train. Photo: DPA
12:20 CET+01:00
Update: Deutsche Bahn (DB) has rejected an ultimatum issued by the Train Drivers' Union (GDL) on Monday, which means nationwide rail strikes may be on the horizon for Wednesday.

GDL had given rail operator DB three days to accept a new package of demands, threatening a record strike if its demands are not met.  

However the head of human resources at DB, Ulrich Weber, said the document "does not represent the current standings in the negotiations, but instead contained GDL's most extreme demands."

In return DB has now submitted their own document for further negotiations. "Negotiations don't work according to the principle of holding a gun to someone's head," Weber also added.

In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS), GDL leader Claus Weselsky had threatened that if the package of demands was not accepted, the next strike would be "around 100 hours long,”

GDL and DB have been locked in a complex negotiation for more than six months, with the union demanding the right to represent other classes of employee as well as train drivers, and in light of the latest developments, it would appear that widespread rail strikes could hit Germany on Wednesday.

A DB spokeswoman told dpa on Monday that the company “has no sympathy for renewed strike threats and hasn't given any cause for them.

“On the contrary, we have fulfilled key demands of the GDL.”

DB had made clear that it was ready to bring all the employee groups relevant to the union into the contract negotiation, she said.

That has brought GDL into conflict with the much larger Rail and Transport Union (EVG), from which it hopes to poach members.

And while the negotiations are going on, the government is pushing forward a law which would ban any but the largest union within a company from negotiating on behalf of the employees.

That would de-fang small unions like the GDL and rob them of their power to immobilise large proportions of train traffic as a lever in negotiations.

Weselsky wrote in a letter to the employers' lead negotiator that the GDL could come out on strike within 24 hours if the union's board agrees.

Train drivers' last major strike took place in November, when they planned to walk out for almost 100 hours.

Weselsky ended that strike a day early and returned to the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, EVG continues to negotiate with DB over its own members' pay and conditions, with the next round of talks scheduled for Wednesday.

“As long as there is progress at the negotiating table, we won't call for industrial action,” EVG lead negotiator Regina Rusch-Ziemba said – although she added that her members would know what to do if their demands were not met.

SEE ALSO: Train strikes cost rail operator €150m – so far

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