Relief in Germany as rail union cancels strike threat

The train drivers' union which disrupted public transport in Germany last year said Sunday it had won major pay gains from the Deutsche Bahn railway company and aborted plans for a fresh strike.

The announcement in Frankfurt by Manfred Schell, leader of the maverick GDL union, brings relief to the country, where car manufacturing and other key industries rely on the railways to ship their products and deliver raw materials.

The GDL had been threatening to the last to resume strikes, prompting the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel to mediate in the dispute, although it normally leaves the state-owned railways company to run itself.

Schell said an accord was reached Saturday at a meeting with Deutsche Bahn chief executive Hartmut Mehdorn and German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee to lay the basis for a separate GDL labour contract to be settled by the end of this month.

Schell said his national executive had unanimously voted Sunday to halt preparations for more stoppages that would have choked Deutsche Bahn's passenger and freight services across the country.

The demarcation between the GDL and two bigger railway unions has been the main issue in the strikes, with GDL demanding recognition as the soil voice of the drivers, whereas Deutsche Bahn wanted to continue package deals with all unions representing its labour force.

Schell said he had won a pay hike of 8 per cent from this March, to be followed by 3 per cent more in September for a total of 11 per cent, plus a one-off bonus of 800 euros per employee for the past year.

Working hours would be cut in 2009 from 41 to 40 hours weekly with no loss of pay. ( Dpa )

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