Germany's Deutsche Bahn set for 'longest rail strike'

Members of the GDL train drivers' labour union protest for the rights of smaller unions outside a congress of the German Federation of Employers (BDA) on 4 November 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Train drivers are seeking a 5% pay increase and shorter working hours

The train drivers' union in Germany has announced a four-day walk-out over pay, which reports say will be the country's longest ever rail strike.

The strike, which starts on Wednesday, was called after talks between national operator Deutsche Bahn and the GDL union broke down on Monday.

GDL wants a 5% pay rise for 20,000 drivers and a shorter working week.

If it goes ahead, it will be the sixth round of industrial action to hit Deutsche Bahn since September.

Millions of passengers were hit during a 50-hour strike in October over the dispute.

In a statement, GDL said the strike would take place from 15:00 local time (14:00 GMT) on Wednesday for freight trains and from 02:00 on Thursday for passenger trains. It would not end until 04:00 on Monday.

A major sticking point in negotiations was the GDL union's demand to negotiate on behalf of other train staff, including conductors and restaurant staff.

According to the Associated Press, Deutsche Bahn said it had offered a raise of 5% over 30 months to the drivers but would not accept pay deals for other employees.

But GDL chairman Claus Weselsky said in a statement that the union's "fundamental right" to negotiate on behalf of its members was "in danger and with it the function of unions as such".

The strikes threaten to bring travel chaos to the capital Berlin and the whole of Germany as it prepares to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at the weekend.

The train drivers' previous strike hit about two-thirds of the rail network.

Germany's government is expected to produce a draft law later this year aimed at stopping small numbers of employees paralysing large parts of the country's infrastructure through strike action.

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