BERLIN, March 26 — Germany’s Deutsche Bahn rail operator and the GDL train drivers’ union have reached a deal in a wage dispute that has caused months of crippling strikes in the country, the union said yesterday.

“The German Train Drivers’ Union (GDL) and Deutsche Bahn have reached a wage agreement,” GDL said in a statement.

Further details will be announced in a press conference today, the union said.

A spokesman for Deutsche Bahn also confirmed to AFP that an agreement had been reached.

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Train drivers have walked out six times since November, causing disruption for huge numbers of passengers.

The strikes have often lasted for several days and have also caused disruption to freight traffic, with the most recent walkout in mid-March.

In late January, rail traffic was paralysed for five days on the national network in one of the longest strikes in Deutsche Bahn’s history.

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GDL has been demanding more money for its members as well as a 35-hour week for the same salary as the current 38-hour week.

Deutsche Bahn had recently offered up to 13 per cent more pay, as well as the option of cutting the working week down to 37 hours starting in 2026.

Europe’s largest economy has faced industrial action for months as workers and management across multiple sectors wrestle over terms amid high inflation and weak business activity.

The strikes have exacerbated an already gloomy economic picture, with the German economy shrinking 0.3 per cent across the whole of last year. Last year’s walkouts cost Deutsche Bahn some €200 million (RM1 billion), according to estimates by the operator, which overall recorded a net loss for 2023 of €2.35 billion.

Germany has historically been among the countries in Europe where workers went on strike the least.

But since the end of 2022, the country has seen growing labour unrest, while real wages have fallen by four per cent since the start of the war in Ukraine.

German airline Lufthansa is also locked in wage disputes with ground staff and cabin crew.

Several strikes have severely disrupted the group’s business in recent weeks and will weigh on first-quarter results, according to the group’s management.

Airport security staff have also staged several walkouts since January.

Some politicians have called for Germany to put in place rules to restrict critical infrastructure like rail transport from industrial action.

But Chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected the calls, arguing that “the right to strike is written in the constitution... and that is a democratic right for which unions and workers have fought”.

The strikes have piled growing pressure on the coalition government between Scholz’s Social Democrats, the Greens and the pro-business FDP, which has scored dismally in recent opinion polls.

The far-right AfD has been enjoying a boost in popularity amid the unrest with elections in three key former East German states due to take place later this year. — AFP