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German transport union announces nationwide 50-hour rail strike

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
German transport union announces nationwide 50-hour rail strike
Demonstrators from the EVG rail union gather in front of Duisburg Hauptbahnhof during a strike in March. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Reichwein

German transport union EVG on Thursday called a new round of strikes on the country's rail network as workers demand higher wages to cope with high rates of inflation.

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With a 50-hour warning strike, the Railway and Transport Workers' Union (EVG) wants to bring all rail traffic in Germany largely to a standstill starting Sunday evening.

From 10 p.m. Sunday until the night of Tuesday to Wednesday at midnight, there will be no long-distance, regional and freight traffic, the EVG announced.

EVG represents 230,000 workers across some 50 transport companies, including national rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

The walkout is the latest in a series of strikes on Germany's rail system in an escalating dispute between the union and management.

"Workers' patience is now really exhausted," said EVG's deputy chairwoman Cosima Ingenschay.

"We are forced to go on strike for 50 hours to show how serious the situation is," Ingenschay said at a press conference.

But Deutsche Bahn's human resources chief Martin Seiler blasted the action.

"This insane strike is completely unfounded and overblown," he said.

"Millions of travellers won't get where they want to go -- to school, to work, to their loved ones," Seiler said.

Deutsche Bahn said it anticipated the walkout having a "massive impact" on the rail network.

Previous strikes have seen the entirety of the country's regional and long-distance services grind to a halt.

Freight services across Europe will also be impacted by the strike, Deutsche Bahn warned, with six out of ten European freight corridors running via the German rail network.

What is EVG demanding?

EVG is calling for a 12-percent pay rise over one year for the workers it represents, with a minimum increase of 650 a month.

The union rejected Deutsche Bahn's first offer of a five-percent increase in two steps, covering 27 months, plus an "inflation bonus" of 2,500.

Inflation has cooled slightly in Germany in recent months but remained very elevated in April at 7.2 percent.

Over the last months, workers in different sectors including healthcare, childcare and transport have gone on strike to demand better conditions.

Collective bargaining in the rail sector has been going on since the end of February. This is the third nationwide warning strike that the EVG has called since then.

At the end of March, together with the services union Verdi, EVG paralysed large parts of public transport, including most airports, for one day.

READ ALSO: Germany hit by major disruption as workers stage 'mega-strike'

The second strike in April was limited to a period of eight hours in the morning, but also caused many cancellations, especially in long-distance traffic. On the motorways, however, additional traffic jams didn't occur as feared.

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