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Germany court rejects petition against railway strike

Berlin, Nov 7 (PTI) A railway strike by engine drivers in Germany, which crippled train services and hit millions of travellers, is expected to cause further disruptions after a court in Frankfurt blocked an attempt to stop it.

Rejecting a petition filed by the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) seeking an injunction against the five-day strike called by the locomotive drivers’ trade union GDL, the labour court in Frankfurt last night ruled that the work stoppage is appropriate and justifiable.

It is the nature of a strike that it could lead to major disruptions, judge Ursula Schmidt said in her verdict. Trade union chairman Claus Weselsky welcomed the court ruling as a vindication of his union’s position.

The court supported the locomotive drivers in all points, he said in a TV interview. The DB announced that it will appeal against the decision at the highest labour court of the state of Hesse. Judge Schmidt had earlier tried unsuccessfully to work out a compromise between the DB management and the GDL.

The sixth strike by the GDL this year and the second within three weeks to press its demand for higher pay and improved working conditions, was kicked off at 2 am yesterday and it affected the entire operations of Deutsche Bahn, including its freight services.

The union had announced that it intended to hold the longest strike in the history of the German railways by continuing it until early morning on Monday. Deutsche Bahn said the strike forced it to cancel more than 70 per cent of its passenger train services and around 50 per cent of freight train services yesterday.

At the centre of the dispute between the GDL and Deutsche Bahn is a union demand for a five per cent pay hike and a two hour reduction in engine drivers’ weekly work period of 37 working hours.

A main sticking point is also the union demand that it should get the mandate to negotiate on behalf of train conductors, catering staff and other railway personnel.

Deutsche Bahn insisted that the trade union for rail and public transport workers will continue to look after the interests of other railway personnel.

Shortly before the last strike on October 19, the DB management made a new offer to the GDL, which included a five per cent pay hike in three states over a period of 30 months and a one-time payment of 325 euros, but it was rejected by the union.

Deutsche Bahn estimates that the latest round of work stoppage by its locomotive drivers would cost the state-owned rail operator around 100 million euros and the nation’s economy will be hit hard as a result of the disruption in industrial production and business activities.

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