20 hours of train cancellations: The first GDL warning strike is over - the uncertainty remains

Rail passengers can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being: The German Locomotive Drivers' Union (GDL) has ended its first warning strike after 20 hours in the collective bargaining dispute with Deutsche Bahn.

20 hours of train cancellations: The first GDL warning strike is over - the uncertainty remains

Rail passengers can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being: The German Locomotive Drivers' Union (GDL) has ended its first warning strike after 20 hours in the collective bargaining dispute with Deutsche Bahn. From 6 p.m. on Thursday evening, driving operations will gradually start again, said a union spokesman upon request. According to a spokesman for Deutsche Bahn, the emergency timetable that the railway had drawn up for the time of the strike should continue to apply for a few hours beyond that. When operations begin early on Friday morning, rail traffic nationwide will be largely back to normal. The railway expects to be able to offer an “almost complete train offering” on Friday.

For passengers, the uncertainty on the rails continues for the time being. In any case, GDL boss Claus Weselsky did not rule out new warning strikes on Thursday. “At this point in time I can’t do that,” he told the German Press Agency in Schwerin at a union rally. It is possible that the topic of the ballot will become more prominent in the next few days. Weselsky had repeatedly emphasized that he wanted to secure legal protection at an early stage and let his members vote on indefinite strikes.

Weselsky had recently sent reassuring signals with regard to strikes over the Christmas period: The GDL has never gone on strike over Christmas, he emphasized after the first round of negotiations last week. But he hasn't completely ruled out the possibility yet.

The GDL's latest warning strike this Wednesday and Thursday came as a surprise to many. After the start of the tariff, both sides parted ways optimistically. They had not made any progress in terms of content. GDL boss Weselsky also viewed the fact that the collective bargaining parties were able to agree on a negotiation timetable as a success. From now on, the union's demands should be negotiated on a weekly basis.

When the GDL announced a warning strike, this plan was scrapped just a few days later. What will happen next remained completely unclear on Thursday evening. The railway canceled the second round of negotiations scheduled for that day and Friday after the GDL announced a warning strike.

The next meeting is scheduled for next week. It was initially unclear whether both sides would stick to it. “We still have to evaluate that, it’s still open,” said Weselsky. “I can’t anticipate that, I don’t know what the gentlemen are up to,” he added, referring to the employers’ side. "I can only point out that we have agreed to negotiate."

The union is demanding, among other things, 555 euros more per month and an inflation compensation bonus. The crux of the negotiations, however, is the GDL's demand for a reduction in working hours from 38 to 35 hours per week for shift workers with full wage compensation. The railway rejects this as impossible. So far it offers an eleven percent wage increase over a term of 32 months and the inflation compensation premium required by the GDL. After a first round of negotiations last week and the first industrial dispute, both sides are still a long way from reaching an agreement.

In order to emphasize their demands, the GDL brought large parts of rail traffic in Germany to a standstill with a warning strike on Wednesday and Thursday. Thousands of trains were canceled. Long-distance, regional and freight transport were affected. In long-distance transport, only one in five ICE and IC trains was on the road during the industrial dispute. In regional transport, the effects were different: In many regions, the railway was able to provide at least a small service during the day.

Freight transport was hit hardest. The railway assumed there would be a backlog of several hundred freight trains, some of which had urgent scheduled freight. According to the railway, it could take days until the traffic jam is cleared.

Both sides blamed each other for the escalation in the collective bargaining dispute. Both the GDL and the railway accused the other party of not keeping agreements. The mood ahead of further possible discussions is extremely bad.

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