Die Bahn Strike Developments

Jul 21st, 2007, 07:42 PM
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Die Bahn Strike Developments

Well folks, if you plan on using the train to travel around Germany during the last 3 weeks of August what should you do? The rail strike situation is alive and well. So the questions remain: Will the trains be operating and, if so, where and how many?

Right now, no one can say for sure. The locomotive drivers union (GDL) and Die Bahn management are at a stalemate. Die Bahn offered the GDL the same settlement it offered the other workers, but the the GDL refused.

Based on the latest news releases the situation remains essentially the same as it was after negotiations broke down earlier.

No third party force seems able or willing to change the situation. German legislators and cabinet-level officials have put pressure on the GDL not to strike during vacation time in August, but the pressure is seemingly without the power to impose any sanctions. Any intervention by the German labor court does not seem likely at the moment.

Mehdorn, chief officer of the rail system, has appealed to the locomotive drivers not to strike, but he remained adamantly unchanged virtually in the same breath.

On the conciliatory side, Mehdorn appealed for no strike during vacation time and stated that he was willing to accept an independent expert evaluation and, if indicated, he would consider a need for change. He also indicated that the strike settlement door was not slammed shut. (Die Tür zu einer Einigung im Tarifstreit sei nicht zugeschlagen.)

On the more rigid side, Mehdorn stated that he would not let the action of a minority group of workers destroy the successful, unprecedented wage and salary agreement reached with the 230,000 other employees of the Bahn. ("Nur eines werde ich nicht zulassen: Dass wenige Gewerkschaftsfunktionäre die beispiellose Sanierungsleistung von 230.000 Bahnmitarbeitern kaputt machen." I think it significent that Mehdorn did not refer to the GDL as a "union")

As for negotiations, Mehdorn mentioned no new ideas or changes in the wage and salary terms already presented to the GDL.

Die Bahn leadership seemingly has no real weapon at the moment to force the issue. The GDL says it is well stocked with enough money for a long strike and, right now, union leadership conducting a strike vote.

The results of the strike vote are expected on August 6. Until then, no union-approved strike will take place.

Neither side right now shows signs of giving in. With the possible exception of a weak strike vote result, no other force is available to alter the balance. If that vote strongly favors a strike, all the ingredients for a prolonged labor dispute will be firmly in place.

So, what to do? Well, I agreed to a rental car contract.
bob_brown is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 12:17 AM
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If there is a train strike, does this mean it's possible *all* German trains will be affected? I have several planned (not booked) German rail trips planned for August.
WillTravel is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 03:21 AM
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It is still not clear that Deutsche Bahn (not Die Bahn) will strike. Or what form the strike will take if they do. Talks are continuing I believe. The government is trying to prevent a strike. Probably it wil not be an all out strike, but stoppages on certain lines - commuter lines but also holiday lines to cause maximum disruption.
WillTravel I would keep following this story closely and come up with a plan B in case you need it.
hetismij is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 08:56 PM
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I've come up with some Plan Bs, but my Plan Bs (like booking the few remaining cheap flights) require that I commit to them, giving up all hope of normally running trains. It's very frustrating to not have any information.
WillTravel is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 09:56 PM
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Hi Will, I don't think anybody can say today or even tomorrow what will happen with the German rail labor dispute.
There are many forces at work behind the scenes and what we see in the press articles surely must be just the tip of the iceberg.

The GDL union is in the process of taking a poll of its membership with the results expected on or about August 6.
Based on what I have read, the strike ballots will be sent to the membership at large on Wednesday. I have seen no spectulation on whether or not 75% of the union members will be vote to strike.

The frequency and severity of the strikes, assuming they occur, has not yet been determined. They could be warning strikes limited to disrupting commuter trains to wide-spread strikes shutting down freight traffic, which would be bad for German industry as a whole.

The union has stated that it will give 24 hours advanced warning, and no strikes will take place until results of the membership vote has been announced.

Today, in "tagesschau.de" GDL-Chef Manfred Schell is quoted as calling on Chancellor Merkel to intervene and use her influence to persuade Bahnchef Mehdorn to resume negotiations.

Despite the seeming willingness to reopen negotiations, Schell also claims the leadership of the Bahn is forcing the union into a strike. I thought this quote was interesting:

Die gescheiterten Verhandlungen mit der Deutschen Bahn würden die GDL in den Arbeitskampf treiben, sagte Schell. Allerdings sei es nicht erstes und alleiniges Ziel des Gewerkschaft, auf Teufel-komm-raus streiken zu wollen. Der Bahn-Vorstand habe noch einmal Zeit, bis zum 6. August ein akzeptables Angebot vorzulegen, betonte Schell.

Essentially Schell is saying that the broken negotiations are forcing the GDL into a strike. However a come hell or high water strike is not the first and only goal of the GDL. The executive committee of Die Bahn still has time before August 6 to make an acceptable offer.

There are so many issues other than just the pay scale for the GDL members that they are hard to comprehend for an outsider.

One issue I don't understand fully is whether or not Mehdorn really does not want to negotiate with the GDL on a separate basis because he does not want to splinter the larger union or if he is just using it as a ploy to refuse to grant the 31% pay increase that the GDL is seeking. I get the impression from some accounts that Mehdorn wants neither! No separate negotiations and no 31% pay increase.

Competitive forces are at work here because Die Deutsche Bahn will go public with an IPO in the near future. As a for profit corporation, salaries that are out of line from a newly-minted independent union could pose a problem.

Some descriptions I have seen say that the GDL has the upper hand. A German expert named Pickering has stated in an iterview that he thinks the GDL has Die Bahn at its mercy because there is no effective countermeasure available.

There seems to be no court involvement to order the strikers back to work and no government ministry seems to have the power to force binding arbitration.

Personally I decided to take the anxiety out of my plans by changing my rental contract with Avis. I will now rent the car in Munich and drive to Switzerland.

I might add, also, that the full name of the German rail system is Die Deutsche Bahn AG, but in almost every newspaper article I have read, the term die Bahn is used frequently.

For example, in today's Tagesschau article, the term die Bahn appears several times.

Also, when you look at the website, a great big red DB flips up on the screen and the caption reads Die Bahn. The website is www.bahn.de

So I am a little at a loss as to understand why using the term Die Bahn draws a rebuke.
bob_brown is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 02:33 AM
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Hello Bob:

I will be in Northern Germany in mid-September for 3 weeks. We are planning to use the train for point-to-point travel between major cities. All but one of the legs are two hours or less by train. I've already booked a flight for the longer leg. Based on the notion that strikes may occur mainly in the early morning commute, I am looking at afternoon train schedules for the short trips. Do you have a projection for the likelihood of a strike, if taken, to extend into my time period, and, if so, what is your opinion of the afternoon strategy? I would prefer not to use a rental car. Many thanks. Gradyghost
gradyghost is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 03:37 AM
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Hmh, the strike is difficult to predict because of an unusual issue: the GDL wants to be accepted as a negotiation partner in its own right and that's difficult for the management to accept (not least because of relation with the main union which probably isn't thrilled about such a specilized worker representation). I think the pay increase itself sound bigger than it is since the figure of 31% applies only to the starting wages which are very low.

If there are no special issues, strikes in Germany tend to be rather limited affairs, as the few days of limited disruption which led to the agreement with the main union. Still, even in this case I'd be surprised if the case wasn't settled until September. If no agreement was reached, the strikes will probably be limited to a day every one or two weeks. I can't imagine the whole railway system shutting down for even one day, much less for a longer period (at least it has never happened as far as I can remember).

Bob: yes, in Germany theoretically nobody but the management and the unions are involved in such negotiations, so nobody in the government can order them to reach a conclusion or stop striking.
Hans is offline  
Aug 1st, 2007, 09:49 AM
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I have a couple of roundtrip tickets going from Zurich to Aschaffenburg (Zurich-Frankfurt-Aschaffenburg and then Aschaffenburg-Mainz-Zurich). How will this strike affect me? Will I still be able to go from Zurich to my final destination? I'm hoping that this can be resolved before the end of the month, but does anyone know the latest aside from what's just been posted today regarding the northwest part of Germany?
trafaelwyr is offline  
Aug 1st, 2007, 12:05 PM
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The link I posted about the injunction stopping the strike in North Rhine-Westphalia is here:

Here's an interesting article where the union head gives a possible insight into their strike plans:

What I'm not sure is how it works if German workers defy court injunctions. I saw that they did this before, in July, so I'm not entirely certain what the penalty for defying the court is, should they choose to do that. Also, I'm not sure if injunctions will be issued for other states in Germany.

WillTravel is offline  
Aug 1st, 2007, 02:02 PM
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Attention: The court forbids the trade union in Nordrhein-Westfalen to tell their members to go on strike. It does not forbid the workers to go on strike. Tinyurl's article isn't accurate on that, according to what the German media publish.
quokka is offline  
Aug 1st, 2007, 02:24 PM
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Quokka, thanks for the clarification. Is it easy for the strike to still go on then?
WillTravel is offline  
Aug 1st, 2007, 03:51 PM
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I would say that the strike might not take place. I just a news release on that subject.

The Duesseldorf labor court has again
forbidden the planned strike of the locomotive drivers in Nordrehin-Westfallen.

The court decreed an interim injuction in response to an application by der Deutschen Bahn. The union must accept a further defeat by the court.

The article went to say that the decision was nation-wide.

Das Urteil gelte bundesweit, es gebe keine regionale Einschränkung, ergänzte der Sprecher

Das Düsseldorfer Arbeitsgericht hat erneut den geplanten Streik der Lokführer in Nordrhein-Westfalen verboten. Das Gericht erließ auf Antrag der Deutschen Bahn eine einstweilige Verfügung. Gleichzeitig mussten die Lokführer eine weitere Niederlage vor Gericht einstecken.

bob_brown is offline  
Aug 1st, 2007, 03:54 PM
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Sorry the above is jumbled. I sent it by accident before final editing. I think the message is clear. Although I am going to be the first to say that some of the legal talk floors me.

So one of you who has a native knowledge of German please confirm, or deny, the accuracy of what I comprehended.

My source was an article in Tagesschau.
bob_brown is offline  
Aug 1st, 2007, 04:32 PM
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Bob, does this latest news give a different implication than what Quokka said above - that the injunction does not prevent strikes, just the union telling workers to strike?
WillTravel is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2007, 12:38 AM
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The situation is very confusing at the moment. Many courts are involved, in several German states. We'll have to wait until a higher court decides.

The tendency is that a small union like the GDL cannot strike if the (huge) company (Bahn) has an agreement with another (huge) union that has multiple times more members in the same company than the small union (GDL). I am quite hopeful it won't be a big and long strike.
Ingo is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2007, 03:20 AM
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For those of us less familiar with specific internal issues... will the strike likely effect-
1- ICE through service Frankfurt-Munich?
2-Z train service Munich-Firenze?
Steve007NY is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2007, 01:43 PM
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I have no idea how the contents of this recent article relate to the strike right now:

But note the article quoting rail workers as saying that all they need to do is have a few key drivers abandon trains at strategic points.
WillTravel is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 11:30 AM
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More talk of strikes next week, with the union head saying passengers get 24 hours notice:

No mention of court injunctions.
WillTravel is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 11:37 AM
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Actually, there is mention of court injunctions in that article - just no conclusion about whether they will stop the strikes.
WillTravel is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2007, 01:51 PM
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The more I read about this possible rail strike the less I seem to understand.
Earlier in the week, a labor court in the Hague sent the case back to Germany.
Now a court in Frankfurt seems to have the ball in its court.

There have been court decisions, but they have been local or regional in nature. I don't understand how it is that the German judicial system takes the whole picture into account.

Right now the news articles in Tagesschau and on a subscription service via email are saying that the GDL is going ahead with plans to strike.

The deutsche Bahn leadership made another offer, but the GDL leaders rejected it. They felt it was not a serious attempt to resolve the matter.

I think the clip below in German sums it up. At the German railroad the signals say strike. The locomotive drivers' union rejected a new offer by the Bahn and refused to reopen negotiations. GDL chief Schell called the offer out of the question. (induskutabel)

There would be no pay increase before the middle of next year. The results of the poll of the GDL members will be announced on Monday.
Elsewhere I read that the vote was running about 90% in favor of a strike.

The GDL says it will plan the strikes carefully and announce which trains and areas will be affected.

Here is the German text.

Berlin. Bei der Bahn stehen die Signale auf Streik. Die Lokfuehrergewerkschaft GdL wies ein neues Angebot der Bahn und die Wiederaufnahme von Verhandlungen zurueck. GdL-Chef Schell nannte das
Angebot indiskutabel. Es sehe keinen eigenen Tarifvertrag fuer Lokfuehrer und mehr Lohn erst Mitte kommenden Jahres vor. Die GdL stellte der Bahn ein Ultimatum, bis Dienstag ein - so woertlich - verhandlungsfaehiges Angebot vorzulegen. Am Montag will die
Gewerkschaft das Ergebnis der Urabstimmung bekannt geben.
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