German train drivers reach deal to end strikes

Deutsche Bahn and the train drivers' union GDL have agreed on a 3.3 percent pay increase for employees, spelling the end of a torturous round of strikes that had wreaked havoc on German railways.

German train drivers reach deal to end strikes
A regional train pulls of of Oldenburg station in Lower Saxony on September 3rd, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

In a Thursday press conference announcing the move, GDL union chief Claus Weselsky said the “compromise” deal was what train drivers had “earned”.

Pay will initially rise by 1.5 percent from December this year, followed by a further 1.8 percent on March 1st, 2023, both sides announced on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Are the German rail strikes going to end soon?

On December 1st, employees will get a Covid bonus of up to €600 in their pay-packets, with the exact amount depending on their wage bracket. On March 1st, 2022, Deutsch Bahn will also grant its employees a €400 bonus across the board. 

The agreement on wages is very similar to that set out by the GDL train driver’s union in its negotiations with Deutsche Bahn.

For months, it had been calling for 3.2 percent pay rise spread over 28 months, along with a €600 bonus to reward employees for working throughout the pandemic. 

In return, however, the GDL has agreed to the planned restructuring of the company pension scheme.

The current system of supplementary pensions will only be continued for existing employees from 2022, it said. For the first time, the GDL is concluding collective agreements not only for train crews but also for employees in workshops and in administration, but not for infrastructure.

‘Back on track’

Standing alongside the union boss, Martin Seiler, the personnel director of the rail company Deutsche Bahn, said: “This agreement puts us back on track for a strong future.”

The union began its walkout on August 10th after members voted overwhelmingly in favour in an internal ballot.

DB Personnel Director Martin Seiler and GDL chairman Claus Weselsky shake hands on their newly agreed deal at a press conference held on September 16th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

During three rounds of strikes, the longest of which lasted five days, passenger and cargo services were disrupted across Germany, adding to supply-chain woes for businesses and causing headaches for holiday-makers.

READ ALSO: German rail chaos continues after two failed attempts to prevent strikes

The agreement also resolved differences over the status of the train drivers’ union within Deutsche Bahn itself. GDL was set to lose out to other unions after rules came into force earlier this year which stipulated that the collective deal negotiated by the biggest union applies across the sector.

The last major conflict between unions and Deutsche Bahn took place between 2014-2015, when over nine months, GDL organised nine rounds of strikes to demand regulatory reforms.

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REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.