German rail workers begin 24-hour strike as pay talks stall

BERLIN (AP) — A union representing Germany’s train drivers began a 24-hour strike Thursday night, causing widespread rail cancellations and travel disruptions across the country.

The strike by the GDL union began on Thursday at 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) for passenger services and will continue until 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Friday. For freight trains, the strike began at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Deutsche Bahn, the German railway, said approximately 20% of its long-distance trains would still run on Friday but urged customers to delay unnecessary travel where possible. The disruptions follow a major snowstorm snarled transit in Munich and parts of southern Germany earlier in the week.

This week’s strike came after negotiations between GDL and Deutsche Bahn broke down after only two rounds of talks. GDL is seeking a pay increase, a one-time payment to help counter inflation, and the reduction of weekly working hours from 38 to 35. Deutsche Bahn has said it made an offer that amounts to an 11% raise.

Limited “warning strikes” are a common tactic in German pay negotiations. The walkout follows a 20-hour strike on Nov. 16, when Deutsche Bahn ran a similarly reduced long-distance schedule.

GDL’s strength among drivers and some other railway personnel varies regionally, and some regional services run by private operators aren’t affected by the dispute.

The strike is expected to be GDL’s last for the year, but the union may soon expand its action. GDL chairman Claus Weselsky told the German radio station Bayerischer Rundfunk that strikes in early 2024 could be “longer and more intense” if no agreement is reached.

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