Train drivers organize two-day strike in Germany for better pay and benefits

Train drivers under the leadership of the Union of German Locomotive Drivers (GDL) have demanded a pay rise of 3.2% by 2022 and a one-time COVID-19 allowance of EUR 600 (USD 706)

August 16, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Train divers strike-Germany
GDL chairman Claus Weselsky addressing the protest mobilization. (Photo: via Junge Welt)

Train drivers in Germany organized a 48-hour strike from Wednesday, August 11, under the leadership of the Union of German Locomotive Drivers (GDL), demanding an increase in wages, bonus, job security and better retirement benefits. The union called the strike after negotiations with the management of the German railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) failed. Around 95% of the union members had earlier voted in favor of strike action. The GDL has warned of more protest actions in the coming days, including strikes, if their demands are not met by the authorities. 

In the negotiations with the authorities, the GDL demanded a pay rise of around 3.2% by 2022 (1.4% in 2021 and 1.8% in 2022), as well as a one-time COVID-19 allowance of EUR 600 (USD 706). DB authorities have stated that they may go for a 3.3% pay rise for the workers only by 2023. According to reports, the 48-hour strike affected 75% of the long-distance train operations in the country and 60% of the regional routes.

GDL national chairman Claus Weselsky has stated, “If the employer wants to end the industrial action in the long term, DB must submit a negotiable offer to the GDL as soon as possible. The railway workers deserve recognition and appreciation for their work. The DB must finally invest the tax money in the railway workers, in the future of the railway system and in the climate targets and must no longer burn them senselessly.” 

The GDL leadership also criticized the DB director and board members for drawing huge sums as salary and offering nothing to the employees as benefits and incentives.

The German Communist Party (DKP) expressed solidarity with the striking workers and demanded that the board of directors of DB stop increasing the burden of the crisis that is being passed on to employees. The DKP said that the policies of the ruling parties in Germany since 1994 have resulted in the pathetic state of railways in the country, marked by poor infrastructure and line closures. The DKP also called for more cooperation between the GDL and the Railway and Transport Union (EVG) for the greater benefit of rail workers.

The German National Railway was founded in 1920 after World War I by aggregating the regional rail networks in the former German Empire. Following World War II, when Germany was divided between the western powers and the Soviets, Deutsche Bundesbahn was formed in West Germany and Deutsche Reichsbahn in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). After the reunification of Germany, the two were merged in 1994 to form one company, the present day DB. In 2008, the German federal government decided to privatize DB by floating 25% of its shares for sale. However, the 2007–08 global financial crisis derailed the government’s plans. Currently, DB remains as a private joint-stock company (AG) but its 100% shares are with the German federal government.