Strikes back in the German timetable, at least 270 freight trains cancelled
Between January and August 2023, the dispute between Deutsche Bahn and EVG monopolised the interest, resulting in massive warning strikes in rail and avoiding a total lockout at the last minute. Now, Germany is on a strike trajectory again, with DB and train driver union GDL at odds about working conditions and financial compensation. German rail was already hit by a GDL strike between 15-16 November. The question is whether strikes will continue persisting until the end of the year and through the new one.
The 20-hour industrial action carried out by union GDL this week is not the first one. For instance, the union’s strikes in the summer of 2021 had a substantial and long-term impact on German rail and rail freight. In 2014, the union launched what was considered the largest railway strike in Germany to the day.
This time and according to DB Cargo CEO Sigrid Nikutta, GDL’s 20-hour strike has already impacted rail freight operations, with Nikutta mentioning that around the afternoon of Thursday, 16 November, around 270 rail freight services were cancelled with the number expected to grow more.
It is essential to mention that Nikutta underlined that strikes are not only about cancelled ICE services and commuters struggling to find their way home. She stressed that the impact on rail freight is equally important and should not be overlooked.
Fears of holiday escalation
Negotiations between GDL and DB have already failed twice, and the union insists that the state-owned company is unwilling to find a solution. The situation resembles the negotiations between DB and EVG, which got quite tense at a certain point.
The two parties will continue negotiating for the time being, while there is no clear view on the continuation of strikes, at least for now. What DB, German consumers and businesses fear is a possible industrial action escalation during the holiday season in December that could bring the whole country to a standstill and possibly continue in 2024, making the start of the new year not so promising for German rail freight.