[Marxism] German rail drivers strike update

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at gmx.net
Mon Nov 19 04:10:41 MST 2007

At the moment the strike is suspended until Tuesday, when talks between Deutsche Bahn executive members (either HR head Margret Suckale or/and CEO Hartmut Mehdorn) and the union leadership will take place.

On the one hand the union leadership is under pressure from its own membership to start a comprehensive and unterminated strike that will really hit. What happened until now was that union members were taken off duty at striking days and put on extra shifts on non-strike days. This allowed Deutsche Bahn to clear rather fast the back-log in the cargo area and thus rendering the strike less effective.

On the other hand the union leadership is acting very cautious (if not to say timid) to keep the strike actions within legal limits. The right to strike is not a constitutional right here in Germany, but only derived (through case-law) from the right to form associations. Any strike action has to remain "appropiate" (whatever this means). In the case of an unlimited strike Deutsche Bahn might look for a court banning the strike and seeking compensation from the union, which would bust it at the end of the day.

Likewise the union leadership is trying to maintain public support for the strike. Despite a media campaign against the "itransigent" union leaders about two third support the strike in opinion polls. When we were handing out leaflets supporting the strike action during strike days at the station we made the same experience. But at the moment the media campaign is not in full gear yet and Deutsche Bahn management is not doing much to win symphathy in a wider public.

Appended is the latest report by Bloomberg. There are conflicting report who will be representing Deutsche Bahn at the talks tomorrow. Bloomberg says CEO Hartmut Mehdorn Spiegel online HR head Margret Suckale. Likewise the 10% offer by Deutsche Bahn (mentionded in the Bloomberg report) is actually a 4.5% pay rise.


German Train Drivers Won't Strike Before Tomorrow (Update1)

By Chad Thomas

Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) -- German train drivers will not hold new strikes prior to talks tomorrow with management at Deutsche Bahn AG, the country's state-owned railway.

Manfred Schell, the GDL union's leader, and Deutsche Bahn Chief Executive Officer Hartmut Mehdorn will meet to discuss the ongoing labor dispute, the railway said in a statement.

Schell and other union leaders will decide after that whether to call new strikes, Gerda Seibert, the GDL's spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview. Train drivers stopped work for three days last week, the longest German train strike since at least Deutsche Bahn's 1994 founding.

The GDL has threatened an indefinite walkout as the stalemate with Deutsche Bahn 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 agreement must be ``within the framework'' of that agreement.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that Deutsche Bahn plans to make a new offer to the train drivers. The railway has declined to comment on the story.

The GDL has rejected the railway's latest contract offer, which includes a one-time payment of 2,000 euros ($2,920) and a 10 percent raise. In return, Deutsche Bahn wants train drivers to put in an additional two hours per week. The railway agreed on July 9 to give the 134,000 members of the Transnet and GDBA unions a 4.5 percent pay increase. 


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