Commuters stuck in Berlin without transportation yesterday were left to contemplate their reliance on public rail operators such as Deutsche Bahn as train drivers began the longest walk-out strike in the industry's history. The boycott is the sixth incident of its kind in an ongoing dispute forwarded by the GDL union of train drivers with several other strikes, including a two day long walk out in October, taking place in past months. The GDL is demanding a 5% pay raise and 2 hour cut to work weeks for train drivers on top of seeking authority to negotiate on behalf of other rail workers, like restaurant staff and conductors, whom currently fall under rival union EVG's jurisdiction. The GDL union has come under harsh criticism across the boards for their recent mutinies but has shown no sign of conceding after pulling out of negotiations last week.
Outrage Over Failed Arbitration
Even members of Germany's more Democratically-inclined parties are speaking out against GDL's strikes despite typically showing loyal support towards trade unions. Yasim Fahimi, General Secretary of the Social Democratic party said: "with these repeated walkouts the GDL is damaging all unions" and the labor dispute has been framed by local newspapers as more of a quarrel between the GDL and EVG associations than it is an issue with presiding rail operator Deutsche Bahn. A spokesperson for Deutsche Bahn announced that services will be severely limited for the upcoming weekend and although legal actions have been taken to try to prevent the strike, to date they have been to no avail.
Public Transit Leaves Patrons High and Dry
In the end it will be the passengers who suffer and the list of grounded casualties will be dramatically increased by inbound visitors to the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this weekend. Scheduled events include everything from honorary speakers, concerts, festivals, and street fairs and over 2 million travelers are expected to crowd Berlin's streets to partake in the festivities. The celebration draws international attention and, on top of increasing expected rail-bound travel, it will create a spike in crowds at Berlin-Tegel Airport, too. Bundesliga football matches are also scheduled in the city this weekend, further stoking the flames of worry and discontent over the loss of rail services.
Commuters and tourists alike have been left with the task of taking travel matters into their own hands as they plan their weekends around the absence of most train routes and the chaos likely in Berlin's remaining public transportation outlets. Empty platforms at Berlin Main Railway Station and over-crowded buses have become the norm all over the grand city of Berlin as people struggle to make up for the loss in service that has resulted from GDL's 100-hour strike.
Car rentals in Germany have been the prevailing alternative, easing concerns by those planning to attend the celebration, though, and a rental car offers wayfarers a welcomed escape from the teeming masses and pandemonium in urban transportation hubs. Amidst the anxious disorder of recent political events affecting travelers who planned to rely on public transportation in Germany, many have found a gratifying solution in the comfort and privacy found when they get behind the wheel of their very own rental vehicles.
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