Walkout: Voices on the rail strike: “It has become an unspeakable power struggle”

“It’s really enough now,” says Antje angrily, who doesn’t want to read her full name on the Internet.

Walkout: Voices on the rail strike: “It has become an unspeakable power struggle”

“It’s really enough now,” says Antje angrily, who doesn’t want to read her full name on the Internet. She is waiting for her southbound train at Hamburg Central Station. According to the emergency timetable, it should leave immediately – she hopes. Because there is a strike at Deutsche Bahn. Once again. “This has become an unspeakable power struggle that needs to be stopped,” says Antje. Claus Weselsky gambled too high. What she is referring to: In addition to the German Locomotive Drivers' Union (GDL), of which Weselsky is federal chairman, there is a second - and much larger - train drivers' representative body: the Railway and Transport Union (EVG).

The EVG chairman Martin Burkert fights less loudly for the over 180,000 members, but no less successfully. It was only at the end of August that an agreement was reached with the railway on a wage increase in two steps of 410 euros per month and an inflation adjustment of 2,850 euros. If Weselsky were to fail completely, the almost 40,000 GDL members would receive these conditions - and the GDL's relevance would decline.

Christian, who wants to go to Lübeck, seems more relaxed. "I think the strikes are okay. We all need more money right now." The current labor dispute didn't bother him, but he believes that the GDL should perhaps be a little more willing to compromise. "36 hours compared to 38 is a huge step." The sticking point in the current negotiations between the union and the railway: The GDL wants 35 hours with full wage compensation, and there is an offer from the railway of 36 hours on the table. Not acceptable, says Claus Weselsky.

Susanne*, who has her day off today, thinks the industrial action is “good” without reservation. "People always need something to get angry about. Yesterday it was the heating law, today it's the rail strike." She thinks it's good that people are standing up for better working conditions. "The railway bosses treat themselves to bonuses worth millions, but the shift workers don't get an hour less. I don't think that's fair."

Another passenger tries to explain away the cancellation of his train with two railway employees on the track. “I have to go to Berlin,” he explains. "The trains should run again from 1 p.m." Even the patient service staff cannot take away his anger. “This is the last time for Deutsche Bahn,” he threatens.

The few foreign passengers at Hamburg Central Station do not seem to have noticed the strike at all. A young man from Iraq is surprised that his train isn't running, but he didn't know that the train drivers were on strike. A business traveler who had just arrived in Germany planned his trip around the cancellations.

According to a survey from the end of January, the strike was largely rejected by the population. 59 percent have no understanding of it, according to a survey by YouGov. 34 percent of the approximately 4,000 respondents understand the strike.

Approval currently seems to have fallen rather than increased. Or a kind of habituation effect will soon set in, which should reduce both the annoyance and the effectiveness of the strike. As the first trains roll back into Hamburg Central Station, Claus Weselsky is once again in front of the television cameras: "As experienced throughout the entire negotiation phase, Deutsche Bahn AG is once again showing that it has no interest in improving the working, income and living conditions of its employees but just wants to 'win'." This is not what a collective bargaining and social partnership on equal terms looks like. The industrial dispute continues.

*Name changed by the editors.

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