German train drivers begin a six-day strike, affecting travel and the economy

Chris Stern/CNN

Empty tracks and platforms at Berlin Central Station during a train drivers' strike on January 24.


London/Berlin
CNN

Germany faces widespread disruption to rail services after train drivers went on a six-day strike on Wednesday, which could wreak havoc on travel plans, disrupt supply chains and force new contracts. ft Economy of sputtering.

It is the second time this month that members of Germany's GDL union have walked off the job over a pay dispute with Deutsche Bahn. The state-owned train operator said the move would cause delays and cancellations on long-distance, regional and city passenger services until Monday. Cargo transport will also face „significant restrictions”.

Tickets pre-booked for travel during the strike are valid for future journeys, Deutsche Bahn Added. Passengers can also cancel their booking And get a full refund. Some passengers expressed their displeasure over the recent action by the train drivers.

“I have always understood all kinds of strikes. But my patience is running out now,” Ilse Derwe told CNN at Berlin's main train station. “No one wins. Everyone loses. Passengers suffer losses. Economy loses, (Railways) image loses.

The longest industrial action in Deutsche Bahn's 30-year history will pile more pressure on Germany's broader manufacturing sector, which is already reeling from high energy costs, supply chain delays, Interest rates and weak domestic and foreign demand.

Industrial output, which dominates manufacturing, shrank 2% last year, the country's statistics office said last week. It was a huge drag The economy as a wholeWith GDP falling 0.3% in 2023, the weakest performance in Europe's large countries.

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Christian Posey/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A sign warning passengers of 'massive disruption across Germany' as a result of the strike was put up at Berlin's main train station on Wednesday.

According to Commerzbank Chief Economist Jörg Cramer The latest disruption is costing the transport sector „just” 30 million euros ($32.6 million) a day, with costs likely to be much higher „if factories have to reduce their production due to lack of supply”.

He added that the strike would „strain the public's nerves” and „hurt Germany's already tarnished reputation as a business destination”.

Businesses are scrambling to find solutions, but industry bodies have already warned that these will not fully offset the blockade, which coincides with disruptions to shipping in the Red Sea, one of the world's largest. Major trade routes.

The strike represents „a major logistical challenge” for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, the German Chemicals Industry Association told CNN.

„Railroads are critical to the industry's logistics of supplying raw materials and shipping intermediate and finished products,” added the trade body, whose member companies employ nearly 550,000 people.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Deutsche Bahn's high-speed trains stand idle in Berlin on January 24.

A significant amount of 16,000 vehicles each work in Germany The day is carried by rail, according to Germany's Association of the Automotive Industry, which warned it could cause disruption beyond Germany's borders.

„A short-term transition from rail to road is very difficult,” a spokesman said. “The ongoing wage dispute is damaging Germany as a business destination. We urge all parties concerned to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible to find a solution.

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Likewise, on Tuesday Deutsche Bahn spokeswoman Anja Broker called on the GDL to „negotiate and find compromises”.

„Everything is now on the table,” he said, including a „generous offer” of up to 13% worth of pay rises and reduced working hours.

Deutsche Bahn's current offer includes a stepwise wage increase: 4.8% in August, with an additional 5% to be implemented in April 2025. After that in January 2026, employees can reduce their weekly working hours to 37 hours at the same pay or choose a further 2.7% salary increase.

GDL rejected the offer. The union wants working hours to be reduced from 38 to 35 hours per week, with no reduction in pay. It has also asked for a pay rise of €555 ($603) a month and a one-time bonus of €3,000 ($3,260) to cover inflation.

„With its third and allegedly improved offer, Deutsche Bahn has shown once again that it continues its previous refusal and confrontation – unwillingness to reach an agreement,” said union president Klaus Weselski.

Germany's supply chains are already struggling due to the crisis in the Red Sea. Earlier this month, Tesla announced it Stop production Attacks on container ships on the main trade route at its biggest factory near Berlin delayed deliveries of parts for two weeks from January 29.

In a worst-case scenario, damage from a rail strike could amount to €1 billion ($1.09 billion), or less than 1% of Germany's annual gross domestic product, given the pressure on supply chains, said Michael Gromling, head of macroeconomics. Research at the Cologne Institute for Economic Research.

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