• Germany's news in English

Train drivers agree to end strike at 7pm

AFP · 21 May 2015, 08:07

Published: 21 May 2015 08:07 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

But fresh trouble appeared to be brewing for Deutsche Bahn elsewhere as the biggest rail union threatened industrial action if a pay deal was not reached soon.

At least for now, though, Deutsche Bahn said that "millions of rail passengers can breathe a sigh of relief".

"The GdL (train drivers' union) strike is over with immediate effect," it said in a statement, adding that the company and the union had agreed overnight to have a mediator appointed to settle their months-long dispute over wages, work hours and negotiating rights.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Thursday that two mediators had been chosen, former Brandenburg minister-president Matthias Platzeck for DB and current Thuringia minister-president Bodo Ramelow for GdL.

Talks are scheduled to begin on Wednesday May 27th and last until June 17th.

DB said it was "pulling out all the stops" for services to return to normal as soon as possible.

It would be able to announce at around midday when normal services could resume, it said.

The group's head of personnel Ulrich Weber said: "We're very relieved. Our customers and employees can breathe easier. Mediation, rather than strike, is what is called for now. Calm needs to be restored."

GdL, for its part, said its members would return to work at 7 pm.

GdL said management had conceded to one of its key demands, namely that a deal would not be dependent on whatever agreements were reached with other unions.

The GdL, which represents some 20,000 train drivers, is demanding a wage rise and shorter work hours as well as the right to represent other rail workers such as conductors and restaurant carriage staff.

That demand is effectively a turf war with the larger railway union EVG, which has more than 200,000 members, and which is now involved in separate, less heated, wage negotiations with DB.

Gordian knot

"After nearly a year of this industrial dispute, we've managed to cut through the Gordian knot," said GdL chief Claus Weselsky.

And the union promised there would be no more strikes until at least June 15 while the mediation was ongoing.

The strike, the ninth stoppage in less than a year, had begun Tuesday and initially affected freight trains, but was extended to passenger services on Wednesday, forcing the cancellation of two thirds of long-distance passenger services.

The industrial dispute centres on wages, work hours and negotiating rights between the small GdL union and the national rail operator.

In early May the union staged a nearly week-long walkout, the longest in DB's history, which industry groups estimated cost Europe's top economy almost half a billion euros.

Nevertheless, while GdL and management have agreed to lower their weapons, new trouble appeared to be brewing with EVG, which is threatening walkouts of its own.

Story continues below…

"We will have to strike if no deal is reached on Thursday," EVG chief Alexander Kirchner told thePassauer Neue Presse.

Kirchner insisted that EVG was anxious to reach a deal at the negotiating table.

"But if that's not possible, we will take industrial action," he said, adding that management's offer of a 4.7-percent pay increase was "a long way off what would would be acceptable for us.”

Kirchner also hit out at the smaller drivers' union GdL for striking.

"Only around 1,000 train drivers are striking, while more than 100,000 colleagues are keen to work," he said. "It is not acceptable if 1.5 percent of the workforce and their strike action prevent the others from getting more money."

Deutsche Bahn transports around 5.5 million passengers and over 600,000 tonnes of cargo in Germany every day.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd