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Will Germany Experience More Rail Strikes in 2024?

Will Germany Experience More Rail Strikes in 2024?

The year 2023 has proven to be challenging for Deutsche Bahn, the German railway company, and its passengers. Ongoing disputes with the train drivers’ union, GDL, have led to significant disruptions. As we approach 2024, the question arises: Will Germany witness an escalation of rail strikes in the coming year?

Current State of Affairs

Deutsche Bahn faced intense negotiations with EVG, the largest train union, earlier this year. Simultaneously, deadlock ensued with the smaller yet influential GDL union. The GDL initiated strikes, accusing Deutsche Bahn of not taking negotiations seriously.

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Expectations for 2024

With talks deemed unsuccessful, the GDL predicts that the dispute will extend into 2024, potentially resulting in more prolonged strikes. Here’s a glimpse of what lies ahead.

Immediate Outlook

While strikes before Christmas have been ruled out, GDL boss Claus Weselsky hinted at “unlimited strikes.” The union is currently balloting its members, with results expected on December 19th. Any further strikes are unlikely until after the New Year.

Anticipated Developments in January 2024

The GDL has committed to no strikes until January 7th, with potential tougher tactics afterward. Weselsky foresees “longer industrial action” starting from January 8th, pending member approval. This could involve strikes lasting several days or even weeks.

Union’s Perspective

Weselsky expresses confidence in obtaining approval for longer strikes, asserting, “There will be no more 24-hour strikes.” However, he emphasizes the responsibility not to strike indefinitely.

Key Dispute Details

The core of the disagreement revolves around the expiration of the current collective agreement between GDL and Deutsche Bahn. The GDL seeks a substantial wage increase, bonuses for shift work, and a tax-free payment to offset inflation. Deutsche Bahn proposes an 11 percent pay rise over 32 months, a tax-free bonus, and an extended working week.

Sticking Point

The major contention arises from GDL’s demand to reduce train drivers’ working hours from 38 to 25 per week. Deutsche Bahn cites staffing shortages and deems the proposal “unworkable.” GDL’s compromise involves a gradual reduction to 35 hours by 2028.

Resolution Possibilities

If the deadlock persists, potential solutions include third-party arbitration or a resumption of talks. The latter is an option that Deutsche Bahn remains open to, echoing a previous resolution with EVG.

As Germany navigates the uncertainties in its railway sector, the coming months will reveal whether a resolution can be reached or if the nation will witness an escalation of rail strikes in 2024. The ongoing negotiations between GDL and Deutsche Bahn underscore the complexity of balancing workforce demands with operational realities. Stay tuned for further developments in this evolving saga.

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