German firms criticise rail strike leaders

strike Image copyright AFP

German businesses have criticised rail union leaders after drivers for the country's Deutsche Bahn rail operator began a week-long strike in an increasingly bitter row over pay.

The strike is the eighth walkout in 10 months and the longest in the rail operator's history.

Passenger train drivers stopped work at 02:00 local time, joining freight train drivers who walked out on Monday.

German business says the strike will cost up to half a billion euros.

The train drivers' union, GDL, has called for a 5% pay rise for its members.

It also wants to cut the working week from 39 hours to 37 and the right to represent staff such as train stewards.

"This strike is completely inappropriate and totally over the top," Deutsche Bahn said.

"The GDL union is going to cause massive harm to rail passengers, Deutsche Bahn and its employees, but also to the German economy." said the train company in a statement.

The railway operator told the DPA news agency that traffic running on its backup schedule was "stable", but that only about one-third of its long-distance trains and two-thirds of its regional trains were running.


Some city subway train networks have also been affected, including in Berlin and Hamburg.

The Federation of German Industry (BDI) said it expected the strike to cost "several hundreds of millions of euros" and called it "a poison for a highly developed economy like Germany".

The steel, chemicals and auto sectors were particularly vulnerable, the BDI said.

"All in all, we're expecting the strike to cost half a billion euros," Eric Schweitzer, president of the German Chambers of Commerce (DIHK) said on Monday.

German manufacturing association VDMA managing director Thilo Brodtmann called a six-day strike "unreasonable".

He told the DPA press agency: "This week will be tough, especially in and around the major cities. The situation will put companies under pressure."

Deutsche Bahn said it had offered a 4.7% pay rise in two phases and a one-off payment, and has suggested taking the dispute to arbitration.

'No results'

A 43-hour strike last month led to the cancellation of two-thirds of Germany's long-distance trains.

Both the union and the company blame one another for the breakdown in talks that led to the new round of strikes.

GDL said in a statement on its website that "no results" had been achieved in the negotiations.

Deutsche Bahn employs 300,000 people, including 196,000 in Germany, and transports about 5.5 million people in Germany every day.

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