German union calls on train drivers to strike this week in a rancorous pay dispute

BERLIN (AP) — A labor union representing German train drivers said Tuesday that it's calling its members out on a 20-hour strike later this week as a bitter round of pay negotiations with the country's main rail operator gets under way.

The GDL union called on drivers, guards and others with Germany’s state-owned railway operator Deutsche Bahn to walk off the job from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 6 p.m. Thursday. Limited “warning strikes” are a common tactic in German pay negotiations.

Deutsche Bahn has in the past run much-reduced services during GDL strikes.

GDL is seeking a raise of 555 euros ($593) per month for employees plus a payment of up to 3,000 euros ($3,257) to counter inflation. It also is calling for working hours to be reduced from 38 to 35 hours per week without a pay reduction.

Negotiations started last week and are scheduled to resume on Thursday. Deutsche Bahn said it has made an offer that amounts to an 11% raise. Deutsche Bahn personnel chief Martin Seiler said in a statement that the GDL leadership “is now showing its true face — it was never interested in solutions.”

GDL accused Deutsche Bahn of having made clear that it wasn't prepared to discuss its core demands.

Earlier this year, negotiations between Deutsche Bahn and a bigger rail workers' union, EVG — a bitter rival of the traditionally more aggressive GDL — went to arbitration.

In that dispute, both sides accepted arbitrators' proposal of a pay increase of 410 euros per month in two stages as part of a deal valid for 25 months. It also featured a one-off, tax-free payment of 2,850 euros per employee to counter high inflation.

The rail talks haven't been the only tense negotiations as Europe’s biggest economy grappled with high inflation. Germany's annual inflation rate has now fallen back to 3.8%, its lowest level since August 2021.