German train drivers reach deal to end strikes

Deutsche Bahn and the train drivers' union GDL have agreed on a 3.3 percent pay increase for employees, spelling the end of a torturous round of strikes that had wreaked havoc on German railways.

German train drivers reach deal to end strikes
A regional train pulls of of Oldenburg station in Lower Saxony on September 3rd, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

In a Thursday press conference announcing the move, GDL union chief Claus Weselsky said the “compromise” deal was what train drivers had “earned”.

Pay will initially rise by 1.5 percent from December this year, followed by a further 1.8 percent on March 1st, 2023, both sides announced on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Are the German rail strikes going to end soon?

On December 1st, employees will get a Covid bonus of up to €600 in their pay-packets, with the exact amount depending on their wage bracket. On March 1st, 2022, Deutsch Bahn will also grant its employees a €400 bonus across the board. 

The agreement on wages is very similar to that set out by the GDL train driver’s union in its negotiations with Deutsche Bahn.

For months, it had been calling for 3.2 percent pay rise spread over 28 months, along with a €600 bonus to reward employees for working throughout the pandemic. 

In return, however, the GDL has agreed to the planned restructuring of the company pension scheme.

The current system of supplementary pensions will only be continued for existing employees from 2022, it said. For the first time, the GDL is concluding collective agreements not only for train crews but also for employees in workshops and in administration, but not for infrastructure.

‘Back on track’

Standing alongside the union boss, Martin Seiler, the personnel director of the rail company Deutsche Bahn, said: “This agreement puts us back on track for a strong future.”

The union began its walkout on August 10th after members voted overwhelmingly in favour in an internal ballot.

DB Personnel Director Martin Seiler and GDL chairman Claus Weselsky shake hands on their newly agreed deal at a press conference held on September 16th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

During three rounds of strikes, the longest of which lasted five days, passenger and cargo services were disrupted across Germany, adding to supply-chain woes for businesses and causing headaches for holiday-makers.

READ ALSO: German rail chaos continues after two failed attempts to prevent strikes

The agreement also resolved differences over the status of the train drivers’ union within Deutsche Bahn itself. GDL was set to lose out to other unions after rules came into force earlier this year which stipulated that the collective deal negotiated by the biggest union applies across the sector.

The last major conflict between unions and Deutsche Bahn took place between 2014-2015, when over nine months, GDL organised nine rounds of strikes to demand regulatory reforms.

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French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.