The ongoing strike at Deutsche Bahn is also meeting with criticism in the trade union camp. DGB head Reiner Hoffmann criticized the GDL's behavior and called on the train drivers' union to return to the negotiating table."What we see critically is that here an occupational group like the train drivers is asserting its particular interests against the overall interests of all other rail employees," Hoffmann told the Düsseldorf-based "Rheinische Post." However, the different employees in a company "should not be played off against each other."
Although the differences between the union and Deutsche Bahn are "not very big," he said, GDL head Claus Weselsky refuses to return to the negotiating table. "I think that's wrong," Hoffmann said. Instead of wages and working conditions, Weselsky was "essentially" concerned with "maintaining his union - which is part of the German Civil Service Federation (dbb) - and increasing its sphere of influence in order to gain more members in this way."
Hoffmann emphasized that so far the GDL has only been able to negotiate collective agreements in 16 of the more than 300 rail operations. For all others, he said, the larger DGB transport union EVG is responsible. "With Mr. Weselsky and the GDL, it's a matter of pure survival," said the DGB leader.
"End of strike would be in the interests of rail customers and climate protection"
It is up to the two unions to jointly conclude a collective agreement with Deutsche Bahn, Hoffmann added. A model for this, he said, was the collective bargaining round in the public sector of the German states, in which Verdi had joined forces with other DGB unions and the civil servants' association to form a collective bargaining community. Hoffmann had already called on the GDL to return to the negotiating table in a "Spiegel" interview in August.
GDL members had begun a new strike in freight traffic on Wednesday afternoon, and since Thursday morning passenger traffic has also been affected. Following the failure of Deutsche Bahn to have the strike banned by an emergency court order, rail customers will have to prepare for massive restrictions on train services over the weekend as well.
The Managing Director of the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), Oliver Wolff, told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur: "We are seeing that passengers no longer have any understanding for the duration of the strikes and the GDL's insistence on not returning to the negotiating table. In this respect, the VDV, on behalf of the industry, calls on GDL to resume negotiations and restore services as soon as possible in the interest of rail customers."
The managing director of the transport alliance Allianz pro Schiene, Dirk Flege, said, "Both in the interest of the millions of rail customers and of climate protection, I can only hope that this labor dispute will end soon." Green Party deputy leader Oliver Krischer said, "The vehemence of the strike is incomprehensible to most outsiders. It is being carried out on the backs of customers. I don't hope that the strike will scare away customers and that they will increasingly switch to buses and cars in the future."
Flege said, "One can only hope that all rail customers will come back after the strike. Rail transport was just about to pick up speed again after the severe slumps caused by the Corona crisis. Here comes the next blow with the long strike. In freight transport, trucks are booming - according to initial estimates, rail's market share has actually fallen recently. And in passenger transport, we've seen in the pandemic that many people have switched to cars." Now would actually be the moment to start the race to catch up after the heavy Corona phase. GDL is a member of the alliance, as is the larger rail and transport union EVG, while Deutsche Bahn is a sustaining member and contributes funding, as do other companies.
Wolff said the VDV respects collective bargaining autonomy. At the same time, he emphasized, "In the context of the Corona pandemic, we can have no sympathy at all for the GDL strike. During the entire period of the pandemic, there was broad consensus between politicians and companies that public transport services would be maintained in full." In this way, passengers should not only have the opportunity to get to their workplaces with public mobility, but sufficient distance in the vehicles should be ensured at the same time, he said. "With the strike, the GDL deliberately and willfully shortens the offer for passengers and thus ensures a completely unnecessary burden on passengers."
Around 600 public passenger transport (ÖPV) and rail freight transport (SGV) companies are organized in the VDV - including DB Regio from the Deutsche Bahn Group. The transport companies are fighting against a corona-induced decline in passenger numbers.
FDP transport politician Oliver Luksic told dpa: "A lack of plannability makes rail less attractive and thus significantly harms the desired shift to rail travel." He added that collective bargaining autonomy and the right to strike are a valuable asset. "However, I would like to see a solution-oriented, factual approach from all parties involved. If the conflicting parties still cannot reach an agreement, the renewed appeal to an arbitrator must be on the table."
Photo by Tomas Anton Escobar