Train drivers with Germany’s main railways company have voted to start an open-ended strike in their pursuit for higher pay, according to an announcement in Berlin by trade union GDL.

download (3)The conflict threatens to bring an autumn of discontent to Germany, where both commuters and tourists rely on rail as much as on roads.

Air travel has also been disrupted this year, with Lufthansa pilots striking four times so far.

State-owned Deutsche Bahn has offered pay rises of 2 per cent. However GDL, the more hard-nosed of two rival rail worker unions, demands 5 per cent.

No date or duration for a strike was announced, but GDL chief Claus Weselsky said there would be no stoppage before midnight Sunday (2200 GMT). Some 91 per cent of voting members approved an all-out strike in a legally mandated ballot.

While non-GDL driver would continue to work, Bahn’s train network would be heavily disrupted if thousands of drivers stayed home.

Public dismay at the conflict may increase pressure on the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel to change German labour laws.

The Merkel government proposes to strip the GDL and other small, radical unions of the legal power to negotiate wages. Legislation would reserve wage negotiating to the biggest union representing staff at any company, effectively empowering more moderate unions.

The proposed legislation has been delayed since earlier this year amid criticism from the labour movement and the Social Democratic Party, part of the Merkel governing coalition.

The proposed legislation would also undercut the negotiating ability of Vereinigung Cockpit, a smaller militant union that has spearheaded claims to preserve early retirement at 60 on generous pensions for Lufthansa pilots. Cockpit said a week ago that its talks with the airline had deadlocked, an indication that it will strike again.



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