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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 November 2007

Train drivers strike in Germany

LAST WEEK 10,300 train drivers of the rail union GDL took strike action for 62 hours. This was the latest action in a series of strikes to demand higher wages, better working conditions and an independent contract. The offer from Deutsche Bahn (the state-owned rail company) management to the union, prior to new negotiations, was very unsatisfactory.

Anne Engelhardt, Sozialistische Alternative (SAV), CWI Germany

The strike has had an enormous effect on the economy, costing an estimated 90 million euros in lost production. For example, at the car factory Audi in Brussels 1,650 blue collar workers were laid-off last week. The Brussels Audi plant gets many of its parts from factories in Slovakia and southern Germany.

SAV intervention

All over Germany, SAV (sister organisation of the Socialist Party in Germany) members joined in solidarity actions with the train drivers; holding rallies and events, organising meetings together with GDL members and selling many copies of our newspaper.

Unfortunately, the leadership of the GDL union told their members to remain in the union offices or the strike offices. They didn't call for demonstrations nor organise public stalls.

However, the train drivers need to engage in discussion with passengers and the public to answer the lies against the union in the capitalist media.

At the union offices members of the SAV assisted GDL members over how to go about organising rallies and protests.

Finally, the Left party [a party to the left of the social democrats, which includes the former east German PDS] decided to support the strike, although the leadership is divided in their demands.

Secret negotiations

As the socialist goes to press, new negotiations between the union and employers are taking place. The outcome of this meeting is not yet known.

Manfred Schell, the chairman of GDL, is under pressure from the union's ranks who are demanding an indefinite strike. Last weekend a strike committee for Berlin was founded which included a member of SAV. The strike committee wants, for example, help to get more publicity and have a better punch against the train management.

Hartmut Mehdorn, the chairman of Deutsche Bahn, is also confronted with demands from Norbert Hansen the leader of Transnet, which is the bigger railway worker union. He told the German news broadcast station N24: "The more they (GDL) achieve, the higher will be the demands of the other railway workers. We never said that we are satisfied with 4.5% [pay increase]."

This announcement shows very clearly how much the leadership of Transnet is under pressure itself from their union rank and file. Previously, Transnet's leadership played the role of scabs, sending their membership to work, while GDL members went on strike.

See for updates

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In The Socialist 22 November 2007:

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Socialist Party news and analysis

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New attacks on incapacity benefits

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Support the Northern Ireland classroom assistants

Cardiff schools: Parents march against closure threats

Socialist Party features

Rail transport: Overpriced, overcrowded, underinvested

Train drivers strike in Germany

Labour's pensions - a social time-bomb

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Denmark general election: Socialist People's Party doubles its MPs

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GM, Chrysler, and Ford's 'race to the bottom'

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Doncaster Hospital workers on strike for 9,000 back pay

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