German rail operator, train drivers end wage dispute

Germany's train drivers have staged multiple walkouts, paralysing rail travel across most of the country for days at a time (AFP Photo/Bodo Marks)

Frankfurt (AFP) - German national rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, said Wednesday it has finally reached a deal with the train drivers' union GDL, putting an end to a long-running dispute that has caused months of chaos and misery for rail passengers around the country.

"Mediation between Deutsche Bahn and GDL has been successfully concluded. Both sides have agreed to the mediators' proposals," the company said in a statement.

Management has been locked in a fierce battle with GDL for many months, during which drivers staged multiple walkouts, paralysing rail travel across most of the country for days at a time.

The GDL, which represents some 20,000 train drivers, had been demanding a wage rise and shorter work hours as well as the right to represent other rail workers such as conductors and restaurant carriage staff.

That demand was effectively a turf war with the larger railway union EVG, which has more than 200,000 members, and which reached a separate wage deal in less heated negotiations in May.

Under the latest settlement, GDL members will receive the same pay rise and one-off bonus concluded with EVG.

The 5.1 percent pay rise will be effected in two stages, and remain valid until September 2016.

In order to reduce by December 2017 the huge number of overtime hours that train drivers had built up, 300 new drivers would be hired.

Weekly working hours, meantime, would be reduced from 39 hours to 38 hours from 2018.

Deutsch Bahn's personnel chief Ulrich Weber described the deal as a "fair compromise."

With the spectre of further strikes now banished, "that is an important signal for our customers, our employees and the entire company," Weber said.

"Everyone can now buy their train tickets for the holiday" period, said one of the two mediators, Bodo Ramelow, at a news conference.