German train drivers’ union votes for indefinite strikes

German train drivers’ union votes for indefinite strikes

As negotiations with Deutsche Bahn continue to be unfruitful, members of the German Train Drivers’ Union (GDL) have voted almost unanimously to hold a so-called “indefinite strike”.

German train drivers vote in favour of unlimited strike action

97 percent of members of the German Train Drivers’ Union have voted to carry out indefinite strike action, well surpassing the 75 percent mandate union members needed to approve an indefinite walkout. However, the strike is not expected to disrupt Christmas travel.

The news comes during a period of - so far unfruitful - negotiations between train drivers and Deutsche Bahn, which have been punctuated by two warning strikes, one in November lasting just 20 hours and another on December 7, which brought train traffic to a standstill.

Though the GDL is the smaller of the two unions at Deutsche Bahn, EVG being the biggest, the fact that a high number of GDL members are train drivers means that the union can greatly disrupt transportation during a strike. During the last warning strike, 80 percent of long-distance trains in Germany were cancelled.

After the December 7 strike, GDL boss Claus Welesky announced that union members would not hold another strike until after January 7, meaning travel ahead of the Christmas holiday should not be impacted by the indefinite strike. However, Weselsky warned that, “What’s coming now will be stronger, longer, harder for customers. [...] From January 8 onwards you should expect longer labour disputes. We will break the blockade of the Bahn.”

Deutsche Bahn refuses call for reduced working hours

So far, Deutsche Bahn has continued to refuse all of the union’s specific demands. One point in particular has been completely ignored - the GDL’s demand to reduce working hours from 38 hours to 35 per week with no pay cut. The fact that Deutsche Bahn has not yet made any offers related to reduced working hours is the motivation for the GDL’s indefinite strike.

The GDL is also demanding 555 euros more for employees each month and a 3.000-euro bonus to offset inflation price rises. If they were accepted, these terms would be applied to 10.000 employees and would be applicable for 12 months. Instead, Deutsche Bahn has offered a gradual 11-percent pay increase over three years and a 2.850-euro inflation bonus, with no mention of reduced hours.

Since the last warning strike on December 7, reports by three German news publications also revealed that Deutsche Bahn bosses received millions of euros' worth of bonuses for 2022, despite chronic train delays and disruption for passengers. The bonuses mean that the nine executive employees working at DB are likely to see their annual salary rise from 4 million euros to 9 million euros for 2022.

Thumb image credit: Jiaye Liu /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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