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German Rail Strikes Cause Widespread Delays

A dispute with state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn led German rail union EVG to initiate a workers’ strike on Monday. The strike lasted four hours and caused chaos among millions of German commuters, with delays continuing throughout the day even after the strike ended at 8 a.m. GMT. Long-distance rail traffic, commuter, and freight trains were disrupted after EVG talks with Deutsche Bahn fell apart Saturday.

Passengers in Hamburg during the rail strike. Photo:  DPA

Passengers in Hamburg during the rail strike. Photo: DPA

After demanding a 7.5 percent pay increase for 160,000 Deutsche Bahn employees, EVG rejected an offer of a 7 percent pay increase over a 29-month period, insisting on a period of 2 years instead. “It is our colleagues who work around the clock, 365 days a year, to ensure passenger and freight traffic in Germany,” said EVG managing director Torsten Westphal in a statement. “We return to the negotiating table when DB AG makes it clear they want to negotiate seriously with us.”

The union is now pursuing new talks with the operator. Negotiations resumed between Deutsche Bahn and EVG Tuesday in Berlin. The so-called “warning strike” affected more than 1400 trains throughout Germany and came just one day after an average 1.9 percent increase in ticket prices by Deutsche Bahn. The rail company described the walkout as a “totally unnecessary escalation.”

After the strike, two employees of German railway operator Deutsche Bahn talk at the central station in Munich. Photo:  AFP

After the strike, two employees of German railway operator Deutsche Bahn talk at the central station in Munich. Photo: AFP

While the strike comes at an especially difficult time for Deutsche Bahn — which is facing mounting pressure to hire more employees, improve constant delays, and invest in more modern trains — it demonstrates an increasing confidence in Europe’s workforce. Germany is facing a cooling trend after reaping immense benefits as Europe’s economic machine for the past nine years, and workers are demanding their share of the reward. Increases in wages will be essential in maintaining private consumption as German exports are weakening.