German train drivers vote to strike

Train drivers from Deutsche Bahn, Germany's state-owned railway company, voted on Monday to back a strike later this week in a bid to demand for wage increases.

German train drivers vote to strike
Train drivers from Deutsche Bahn, Germany's state-owned railway company, voted on Monday to back a strike later this week in a bid to demand for wage increases.

Almost 96 percent of the 12,000 members from the GDL, the engineers' union of the company, voted for the strike.

The drivers will disrupt train services across Germany on Aug. 9, union chairman Manfred Schell told reporters in Frankfurt on Monday.

The union wants raises of as much as 31 percent for 20,000 drivers and 10,000 ticketing and other staff. Deutsche Bahn said it won't comply with a demand to make a new offer by 6:00 p.m. Tuesday.

The ballot clears the way for the first unlimited rail strikes in Germany since 1992.

A prolonged stoppage would harm the economy, Europe's largest.

A complete shutdown of railroad-based passenger and freight traffic in Germany would cause revenue losses of 500 million euros(around 691 million U.S. dollars) a day, local media reported.

According to the GDL union website, train drivers will disrupt freight traffic across the country on Aug. 9 and announce the precise timings of the action.

Deutsche Bahn won't be "blackmailed," the company's human resources director Margret Suckale told a press conference in Berlin.

"The strike will punish our customers disproportionately. Some 8,000 people are going to affect the plans of millions and this is unacceptable," Suckale added.

Train drivers in Germany have been underpaid since 1994, the year Deutsche Bahn was founded through a merger of the country's former western and eastern railways. Train drivers currently get about 1,500 euros net a month, according to the GDL.

Demands for raising gross monthly pay to 2,500 euros for drivers and 2,180 euros for train conductors are "completely justified" given a 62 percent pay increase for company board members between 2005 and 2006, Schell said.

Deutsche Bahn, which is planning to sell shares next year, has sought legal injunctions through labor courts across Germany to block the stoppages.

Earlier on Aug. 1, a Dusseldorf-based court ruled a regional strike in North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous of the country's 16 states, unlawful.

Agencies
Last Mod: 07 Ağustos 2007, 19:48
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