Germany: Railway workers' strike continues

Germany: Railway workers' strike continues
© Deutsche Bahn AG / Martin Förster

Deutsche Bahn (DB) is operating a limited emergency timetable, with only one in five long-distance high-speed trains running and regional services severely reduced.

The rail strike in Germany, initiated by the German Train Drivers' Union (GDL), has severely disrupted the country's rail services and negotiations between GDL and Deutsche Bahn remain unresolved. A walkout by train drivers in Germany has brought rail travel to a "near standstill", with towns and cities across the country affected. State-owned Deutsche Bahn said only about 20% of its long-distance trains were running. It said many regional and commuter trains in cities such as Berlin were also not running. The strike, which began on Wednesday and is expected to last until Friday evening, has prompted Deutsche Bahn (DB) to introduce a much-reduced emergency timetable.

Commuters, particularly in colder areas such as Cologne, are facing challenges due to cancellations and disruptions. The strike puts further pressure on Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government, which is already struggling with several economic problems, including high interest rates and budget issues. This strike follows a three-week truce over Christmas and an unsuccessful attempt by Deutsche Bahn to obtain a court injunction to block the strike.

The GDL's demands include a reduction in the working week for shift workers from 38 to 35 hours without a pay cut, which Deutsche Bahn has refused to agree to. Deutsche Bahn argues that the union's demands would significantly increase staffing costs, as more workers would have to be recruited at a time when there is a shortage of skilled labor in Germany.

Freight train drivers are also taking part in the strike, raising concerns about disruption to the supply chain as a significant proportion of German freight is transported by rail.

The strike coincides with protests by German farmers against government plans to cut fuel subsidies, adding to the overall disruption across the country. Farmers have blocked roads and motorways with their tractors and further protests are expected.

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