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Deutsche Bahn cancels all long-distance trains on Monday

March 23, 2023

Germany is bracing for major disruptions to transport nationwide on Monday after unions called for a day-long strike in the transport sector. No long-distance trains will operate and most regional rail will be canceled.

An ICE and a regional train are at a main station
Deutsche Bahn has promised to provide more detailed information about the effects of the strike as soon as possibleImage: Peter Kneffel/dpa/picture alliance

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn on Thursday announced that no long-distance trains would operate on Monday due to nationwide transport strikes.

The decision came after the trade unions EVG and Verdi announced strike action intended to paralyze large sections of the public transport system. 

The strikes come with German employees in many sectors seeking significant wage hikes to keep up with persistently high inflation.

What the train operator said

"This will affect all German rail operations, as employees from all areas of Deutsche Bahn and other rail companies have been called on to walk out," the operator said in a statement. "The long-distance traffic of Deutsche Bahn is therefore completely discontinued."

"According to statements by the union, the first effects of employees striking are possible as early as Sunday evening. Also on Tuesday numerous trains will be canceled due to the after-effects of the strike," it added. 

The company urged passengers to postpone trips planned for Monday to the next day where possible.

Airports also ground flights

After the union announcements, Germany's busiest airport, Frankfurt Airport, said it was canceling all regular air traffic next Monday.

"All tasks that enable full flight operations" are suspended due to the strike," the airport's operating company Fraport announced. 

Munich Airport, the country's second-busiest hub, said there would be no passenger flights at all on Sunday and Monday.

A person with luggage at an empty terminal at Frankfurt Airport
Passengers hoping to fly from Frankfurt on Monday will have to change their plansImage: Heiko Becker/REUTERS

What did the unions say?

The two labor unions, representing thousands of workers, called for the major transport strike as part of their drive for better wages.

The one-day action will affect trains, planes, maritime shipping and local transit.

The strikes are the latest in a series of protests by the transport unions in recent months. It comes as Germans struggle with an inflation rate of over 8% after Russia's invasion of Ukraine pushed up food and energy prices.

Frank Werneke, head of Verdi, said the strike would have a "massive effect" across the country.

Nearly 380,000 passengers "will not be able to take their flights" due to the strikes, ADV, the German airport association, warned.

Around 120,000 Verdi employees working in all German airports except for Berlin, local transit workers in seven of Germany's 16 states, and highway and port workers, are expected to participate in the walkout.

The strike is scheduled to start at midnight Monday and will impact services throughout the day.

Underground trains parked at a station near Munich during a warning strike in Munich, southern Germany on Friday, March 3, 2023
Earlier in March, the public transport system of Munich, Bavaria, also went on a warning strikeImage: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

What are the demands?

Around 2.5 million people working in the public sector are represented by Verdi in the wage negotiations.

Meanwhile, 230,000 workers at Deutsche Bahn and bus companies are represented by EVG.

EVG is demanding a 12% wage increase, or at least €650 ($706) per month, while Verdi is asking for a 10.5% pay rise, or €500 per month.

"We represent groups of workers who literally run this country and are paid far too badly to do so," stated Werneke.

He added that inadequate offers from the employers had led them to "act as a united force" with the EVG.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn and other public employers are proposing a 5% average wage increase and a one-time payment of up to €2,500. However, the wage increase being offered is lower than the 2022 inflation rate of 6.9%.

"We don't want any further escalation. We want a negotiable offer," said Martin Burkert, head of EVG.

What has the reaction been?

Deutsche Bahn has condemned the planned strikes as unnecessary and groundless, insisting its wage increase offer was reasonable.

"The EVG must face up to its responsibility and return to the negotiating table immediately," said Martin Seiler, personnel director at Deutsche Bahn.

"Our employees and passengers now need a quick solution, not a big strike," he added.

Ralph Beisel, general manager of airport association ADV, also denounced the planned strike.

He said the protests were influenced by the ongoing French demonstrations against the government's planned pension reforms.

"The strikes announced for Monday go beyond any imaginable and justifiable level," Beisel stated.

rc,aa/nm (AFP, dpa)

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