[Marxism] German rail drivers strike update

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at gmx.net
Fri Nov 16 01:14:54 MST 2007

Bloomberg reports:

German Train Strike Halts Passenger, Cargo Service Nationwide

By Chad Thomas

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- German commuters struggled to get to work and companies faced problems transporting goods as a railway drivers' strike for higher wages and better working conditions entered its third and final day.

Passenger traffic was hobbled as the state-owned railway slashed local services, while freight trains, particularly in eastern Germany, only carried essential goods, Deutsche Bahn AG said in a statement.

The GDL train drivers' union threatened an indefinite strike after service resumes early tomorrow morning as the stalemate between the Berlin-based railway and GDL drags into its fifth month. The union is seeking a contract separate from one reached with the railway's two other labor groups, while Deutsche Bahn says any deal must be ``within the framework'' of that agreement.

German companies are feeling the strike's effects; it began on freight service Nov. 14 and widened to include local and long-distance passenger trains yesterday. A walkout lasting more than two weeks could shave 0.2 of a percentage point off German economic growth, Stefan Bielmeier, a Deutsche Bank AG economist in Frankfurt, said last week.

Factory Closure

Volkswagen AG's Audi luxury-car division closed its Brussels factory yesterday and today as a result of the walkout, Eric Felber, an Audi spokesman, said. The Ingolstadt, Germany- based carmaker, which builds about 440 cars a day at the plant, hopes to return to normal production Nov. 19, he said.

``The situation in the cargo services area, after a strike of more than 43 hours, has grown more acute,'' the railway's statement said. ``The Deutsche Bahn is only able to transport primary goods in western Germany and the most essential products in eastern Germany.''

About two-thirds of long-distance passenger trains nationwide and 50 percent of regional trains in western Germany were running as part of an emergency schedule. The railway was operating 20 percent of regional traffic in eastern Germany.

Deutsche Bahn said yesterday it's taking legal action to seek more than 5 million euros ($7.3 million) in compensation from GDL, claiming it broke the law in July by striking before the expiry of its current pay contract.

Lawsuit `Unfounded'

``The lawsuit seeking compensation is unfounded and without any substance,'' Claus Weselsky, the GDL's vice chairman, said in a statement late last night.

The railway pulled in an additional 1,000 employees from other parts of the company working to help provide replacement service and is operating 500 buses.

About 30 percent of commuter service in Berlin, the largest city, were running, while in Hamburg 50 percent of local trains were operating, the railway said today. In Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart, one-third of commuter traffic was running.

The GDL rejected the railway's latest contract offer, which includes a one-time payment of 2,000 euros ($2,934) and a 10 percent raise. In return, Deutsche Bahn wants train drivers to put in an additional two hours per week. Deutsche Bahn agreed on July 9 to give the 134,000 members of the Transnet and GBDA unions a 4.5 percent pay increase. 


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