Nationwide train strike begins: Travelers need to know that

A woman stands in front of the scoreboard in the main train station.
On Friday there are again significant restrictions in long-distance and regional traffic nationwide. © Sebastian Kahnert/dpa

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After a major warning strike in public transport at the end of March, things have remained largely calm for rail passengers – now there are again significant restrictions in long-distance and regional transport. There will also be industrial action again at some airports. Overall, however, the scope of the campaigns is significantly lower than last time. What travelers need to be prepared for on Friday:

Who is on strike, when and where?

In Germany, rail traffic largely came to a standstill this Friday morning as a result of a warning strike by the railway and transport union EVG. Since 3:00 a.m., employees of around 50 railway companies have been in industrial action, as an EVG spokesman confirmed in the early hours of the morning. “The shifts that are running now are going into the strike phase.” Long-distance, regional and S-Bahn trains across the country are affected.

The sister union Verdi, on the other hand, has announced warning strikes for Friday at Cologne/Bonn, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden airports in the aviation security area, in passenger control, personnel and goods control and in service areas. “In connection with the strike, longer waiting times up to and including flight cancellations or cancellations are to be expected,” the union warned on Tuesday.

What effects can be expected?

As was the case at the end of March, the impact on rail is likely to be significant. Deutsche Bahn wants to completely stop long-distance traffic in the morning. From 1 p.m. it should start up again gradually. “Nevertheless, nationwide effects of the strike on ICE and IC trains are to be expected on Friday until the early evening hours,” it said. “Everyone who can reschedule should do so,” said Group HR Director Martin Seiler in Berlin on Wednesday. In regional and S-Bahn traffic, on the other hand, after the end of the strike, “as many connections as possible should be offered again in a timely manner according to the regular timetable”. However, further restrictions are to be expected here in the course of the afternoon.

Passengers at Cologne/Bonn, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden airports also have to be prepared for significant disabilities. “According to the current status, around 700 departures will not take place at the airports DUS, HAM + CGN,” said the airport association ADV on Wednesday. Around 100,000 passengers are affected. Hamburg Airport, for example, announced that all departures would be canceled due to the warning strike on Thursday and Friday. Longer waiting times, flight cancellations or cancellations are expected in Stuttgart on Friday.

The situation in North Rhine-Westphalia

In North Rhine-Westphalia, too, the rail strike began as planned on Friday morning. A spokesman for Deutsche Bahn confirmed that the EVG employees stopped work at 3:00 a.m. Long-distance, regional and S-Bahn trains are affected. “There is currently no train in NRW,” he said. Replacement buses are to be made available to travelers on some lines. The warning strike has been announced until 11:00 a.m. After that, according to the spokesman, local transport should gradually start up again. Long-distance traffic, on the other hand, will remain suspended until 1 p.m. In the case of long-distance traffic, he assumes impairments into the evening, said the spokesman.

This is the second nationwide warning strike in rail transport in the current collective bargaining round. The first was at the end of March. The EVG is negotiating with around 50 railway companies – so far there has been little movement. So far, the union representatives have met in two rounds with Deutsche Bahn. Both ended inconclusively after only a few hours. The EVG demands at least 650 euros more per month for the employees or twelve percent for the upper income groups as well as a term of twelve months for the collective agreement.

Can I postpone my trip without paying extra?

Yes, Deutsche Bahn has again promised goodwill arrangements. All passengers who want to postpone their trip planned for Friday due to the warning strike should be able to use their ticket flexibly until April 25th. The prerequisite is that you have booked the trip up to and including April 18th.

Trains, ships, planes – will everything come to a standstill again?

No, there will not be such an extensive warning strike as at the end of March this time. At that time, EVG, together with Verdi, had largely brought public transport in Germany to a standstill with a 24-hour warning strike. In addition to rail, almost all German airports except Berlin were affected, as were ship and port traffic. Now the warning strike on the railways is limited to a few hours in the morning and in the morning. “We are not concerned with punishing passengers,” said EVG collective bargaining officer Cosima Ingenschay. “On the contrary: We are only concerned with increasing the pressure on the employer.” With Düsseldorf, it is true that one of the largest German airports is affected. However, other important hubs such as Frankfurt and Munich will remain in operation.

The union wants to achieve a wage increase of at least 650 euros for the employees or twelve percent for the upper income earners, all of this with a term of the collective agreement of twelve months. The state-owned railway has recently been open to accepting the most recent arbitration award in the public service wage dispute as a guide for a railway-specific solution.

The arbitration award initially provides for a tax and royalty-free inflation adjustment in several stages totaling 3,000 euros. From March 2024 there will then be a base amount of 200 euros and then a wage increase of 5.5 percent.

The EVG strictly refuses to accept the arbitration award as a further basis for negotiations. “We need to step up the pressure on employers who think they can ignore their workers’ demands and instead want to engage in squire-style collective bargaining. That is not acceptable,” said the two EVG collective bargaining boards Cosima Ingenschay and Kristian Loroch to justify the renewed warning strike.

Therefore, the EVG is currently negotiating in the second round with around 50 railway companies. The next meeting with Deutsche Bahn is scheduled for next Tuesday. If there is no agreement, both sides will probably not meet again until the end of May. That’s how long it takes for the EVG to negotiate with the other companies. The union has recently made it clear that warning strikes are conceivable at any time during negotiation rounds.

The EVG emphasized on Wednesday that the parallel warning strikes on Friday were just a coincidence. There was no coordination between the unions this time.

Do I have to be prepared for further warning strikes in the next few weeks?

Verdi, in turn, is negotiating with the federal government and local authorities next Saturday about a proposal for arbitration in the public sector. If no agreement can be reached either, a ballot and indefinite strikes are conceivable.


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