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A locomotive at Hanover Central Station

Photo: Julian Stratenschulte / dpa

The train drivers' union GDL is now allowed to call for indefinite strikes in the wage dispute with Deutsche Bahn. In a ballot, around 97 percent of the voting members were in favor, as the GDL announced in Frankfurt am Main. In addition to Deutsche Bahn, the permanent strikes could also affect the regional rail operators Transdev, City-Bahn-Chemnitz and eight personnel service providers.

Since the start of collective bargaining at the beginning of November, the GDL has already brought most trains to a standstill twice with 20 and 24-hour warning strikes in passenger transport, respectively. However, there will be no new walkout until January 7 and thus over the Christmas season and the turn of the year, the GDL had already announced. After that, however, travelers will have to prepare for longer strikes: "What is coming now will be stronger, longer and harder for customers," said GDL boss Claus Weselsky.

According to the right to strike, at least 75 percent of the votes cast had to be in favor of broader industrial action in order for Weselsky to use such a strike at any time as a means of exerting pressure in the wage dispute. It was considered certain that the quorum for indefinite strikes would be reached.

The GDL and Deutsche Bahn have become bogged down in the wage dispute. Weselsky declared the negotiations to have failed after the second round. The biggest point of contention is the GDL's demand for a reduction in working hours from 38 to 35 hours per week for shift workers with full wage compensation. To do this, she demands 555 euros more per month as well as an inflation compensation bonus of 3000 euros. At the beginning of the talks, Deutsche Bahn had offered eleven percent more wages and salaries for a term of 32 months of the collective agreement. The GDL had rejected this as completely inadequate.

The railways, on the other hand, are resisting the demand for a reduction in working hours due to the shortage of workers. If the GDL demand were met, 10,000 new employees would have to be hired, which is impossible in the current labor market, the company argues. An extension of the GDL's collective agreements to other sectors is also rejected. The core area of the GDL is train drivers and train attendants. According to Deutsche Bahn, the GDL is negotiating for a total of 10,000 employees. This is also defined by law, as the GDL does not have a majority in other operating units. The larger railway and transport union (EVG) had negotiated on their behalf.