Longest strike ever on German railways

Engineers of the state-owned railway company Deutsche Bahn started a six-day strike last night, the longest strike ever on German railways.

The strike comes because of a long-running dispute over working conditions and pay between DB and union GDL. Train traffic in Germany is expected to come to a virtual standstill.

It is now the third strike since negotiations on a new collective agreement began in November. GDL is demanding a pay raise for railway workers to compensate for increased inflation. The union also wants a shorter working week of 35 hours, with employees keeping the same salary.

Wage increases of €555/month

On Friday, DB made another offer in a last-ditch effort to avoid the strike. That provided for a 4,8% raise from August and another 5% from April 2025, the immediate payment of a purchasing bonus, and a reduction in working hours from 38 to 37 hours for train drivers and attendants from 2026. Those who do not want their working hours cut could opt for a 2,7% raise.

But GDL and union members did not go along with that: GDL is demanding a wage increase of 555 euros per month and a reduction in working hours to 35 hours with wage retention for shift workers.

Less ICE high-speed trains

As with previous strikes – this is already the fourth since mid-November – around 80% of long-distance trains would be canceled, according to Deutsche Bahn. Regional transport is also facing significant disruption.

During the strike, there will also be fewer ICE high-speed trains running between Belgium and Germany. There will be three in each direction. The trains will also only run between Brussels and Cologne, and not between Cologne and Frankfurt. Travelers can use their ticket until Monday 5 February, or request a refund.

Eurostar high-speed trains to and from Germany will run as usual. European Sleeper’s night train from Brussels via Amsterdam to Berlin will also run as usual.

As for Austrian railway company ÖBB’s overnight train from Brussels – via Berlin to Vienna – there is no clarity yet, although ÖBB expects disruptions. In previous strikes, the Nightjet night train usually did not run. According to Dutch Railways NS, they are not running. NS is also canceling all ICE International trains to the country from Wednesday until next Monday.

Collision course

German industry expects the major strike on the railways could cause huge problems for companies. Due to the work stoppage, less freight transport and production are possible and production processes may even grind to a halt, reports the German industry association BDI. “With a six-day strike, damages running up to a billion euros are not unrealistic,” said BDI chief Tanja Gunner.

Germany’s employers, for that matter, are on a collision course with the government. “Companies have lost confidence in the government,” said Rainer Duller, the president of the German employers’ association. “Nothing is simply happening.”

According to the business community, Germany has quietly turned from an engine of the European Union into a brake block.

And when two dogs fight over a leg, a third goes with it, as Lufthansa Group notes that there is more demand for its domestic flights in Germany because of the train strikes in the country.

Subsidiary Eurowings, for example, is seeing the highest number of bookings in the past four years. It is already planning to use larger aircraft, with 40% more seats. Additional flights are also planned between Berlin and Düsseldorf.

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