Train strikes in Germany may cost 100 million euros a day
The GDL union, which represents about one in ten of railway operator Deutsche Bahn's nearly 200,000 workers, wants a 5 percent pay rise and a reduction in the working week to 37 hours from 39. It is also fighting for the right to negotiate on behalf of other employees including train stewards.
The strike starts at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT) for freight trains and will affect passenger services from 2 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Wednesday. About a fifth of German freight is transported by rail and millions of commuters use the railway every day.
The BDI industry association said the strike would hit the whole country and that after a few days of strikes the cost of disruption from assembly line stoppages could balloon from about 1 million euros per day to as much as 100 million daily.
"GDL is acting irresponsibly and has lost all sense of proportion," BDI manager Dieter Schweer said, noting that the chemical, steel and auto sectors could be hardest hit.
GDL chief Claus Weselsky told German radio the strike was Deutsche Bahn's fault because the state-owned rail operator would not sign up to what had already been agreed.
"GDL is walking out not because train drivers want to go on strike but it had to declare the talks as having failed. I'm not playing with a poker face any more," he told Deutschlandfunk.
Deutsche Bahn said it would try to avoid bottlenecks in freight transport. ■