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Hamburg Central Station during the warning strike on 16 November

Photo: Bodo Marks / dpa

The train drivers' union GDL wants to strike passenger and freight transport from tomorrow, Thursday, December 7 to Friday, December 8. SPIEGEL learned this from trade union circles.

According to the union's plans, the nationwide work stoppage is to start on Thursday at 18 p.m. with freight traffic, and at 22 p.m. no passenger trains will run. The strike for passenger and freight trains is scheduled to end on Friday evening, December 8 at 22 p.m. In addition to Deutsche Bahn, the railway companies Transdev, AKN, City-Bahn Chemnitz and eight personnel service providers from the sector are affected.

GDL boss Claus Weselsky accused employers of ignoring "the legitimate fears of their own employees." They also torpedo the urgently needed measures for successful personnel recruitment," said Weselsky, referring to the shortage of skilled workers.

Deutsche Bahn reacted sharply to the strike announcement: "The train drivers' union is spoiling the second weekend of Advent for millions of uninvolved people," said Martin Seiler, Chief Human Resources Officer. The strike so soon after the onset of winter and before the timetable change was irresponsible. The railway called on the GDL to call off the strike and return to negotiations.

GDL train drivers had already stopped work for 20 hours in mid-November. As a result, around 80 percent of all DB long-distance trains were cancelled. In some cases, regional transport was even more severely affected.

While negotiations with Deutsche Bahn were still ongoing, the union had also initiated a ballot on indefinite strikes among its own members, the result of which is to be announced at the end of December. Last Friday, the GDL finally declared the wage negotiations with Deutsche Bahn to have failed after the second round of talks. GDL boss Weselsky announced further warning strikes in the course of this, but without giving a concrete date.

Martin Seiler, Deutsche Bahn's Chief Human Resources Officer, accused the union of having rejected a Christmas truce. According to Seiler, Deutsche Bahn had proposed this for the period between December 15 and January 7.

Dispute over weekly working hours

In the wage dispute, the GDL is demanding that shift workers only have to work 38 hours per week instead of 35 hours – with full wage compensation. GDL boss Weselsky had recently shown himself open to a gradual reduction. The aim is to make healthy employees and Deutsche Bahn attractive as an employer. (Read more about Claus Weselsky's last fight here.)

DB Chief Human Resources Officer Seiler, on the other hand, considers the implementation to be too expensive and sees no room for compromise. He also argued with the shortage of skilled workers – with fewer hours per week, more staff are needed.

The GDL is also demanding an additional 555 euros per month as well as an inflation compensation premium. Deutsche Bahn has so far offered to pay the required premium, plus an eleven percent wage increase over a period of 32 months.

According to Deutsche Bahn, a new collective bargaining agreement would apply to about 10,000 employees. This is significantly less than the railway and transport union EVG represents – its agreement from this year applies to about 180,000 DB employees.

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