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German train drivers union calls off rail strike

German train drivers’ union GDL called off a rail strike planned from Monday after agreeing on Sunday with rail operator Deutsche Bahn on a so-called basic wage contract.

GDL had threatened strikes from midnight, which would have escalated a months-long wage dispute with Deutsche Bahn. “It’s a good day today, and what we had planned from tonight... will not happen,” the head of GDL, Manfred Schell, told reporters after talks with Deutsche Bahn representatives. “And I think it won’t be necessary for some time.”

In January, Deutsche Bahn and GDL ended months of wage negotiations and strikes with a deal that gave the union’s 34,000 drivers an 8% pay increase from March and another 3% rise from September. But the two sides had haggled over a so-called basic wage contract, which would set out how wage deals Deutsche Bahn had agreed with other unions fitted in with the GDL accord. Deutsche Bahn, which had said it wanted to keep its employees under the aegis of a sector-wide agreement, said it had agreed on a deal that would protect GDL’s autonomy. This had been one of GDL’s core demands.

Economists and business lobbies have voiced concern that a series of high wage deals in Europe’s largest economy risked driving up inflation. This year has already seen a 5.2% pay rise for German steel workers, their biggest in 16 years. “We have a result which brings calm for the next few years,” Deutsche Bahn CEO Hartmut Mehdorn told reporters. “I am very happy for Deutsche Bahn and for our clients.” However, even with the strike called off, Deutsche Bahn said earlier on Sunday train traffic might be disrupted on Monday because the rail firm had already prepared a for reduced service and adjusting to a no-strike situation would take some time.

 

STRIKES ELSEWHERE

Germany has faced a series of recent labor disputes. A wage conflict at Berlin’s local transport operator BVG has paralyzed bus, tram and underground services in the capital since last Wednesday. German rubbish collectors, nursery workers and other public sector employees could also stage new strikes, after talks between the government and service sector trade union Verdi ended on Friday without a wage deal for some 2 million federal and local government staff and headed for arbitration. Separately, workers at postal delivery firm Deutsche Post could also go on strike from April, Verdi has said. The head of Germany’s BDA employers association Dieter Hundt said excessive wage deals would threaten jobs. “If Verdi and GDL get down to business, they are threatening the current positive development of the economy and of the labor market,” Hundt told Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “Continued strikes could lead to a situation, where the number of unemployed will be decreasing by less than the expected 300,000 to 400,000 this year,” he said. (Reuters)