Train strikes and farmers’ protests set to bring Germany to a standstill this week

Train strikes and farmers’ protests set to bring Germany to a standstill this week

This week will see the German Train Drivers’ Union (GDL) go on strike while farmers blockade roads and autobahns across the country to protest subsidy cuts. The disruption double-whammy is expected to bring rail and road transport to a standstill.

GDL announce four-day German train strike

The GDL has announced that train drivers across Germany will begin a four-day strike starting at 6pm on Tuesday, January 9. Freight train drivers will be the first to join the strike, followed by passenger train drivers at 2am on Wednesday, after which long-distance trains and S-Bahn trains will be severely delayed or cancelled across the country.

The industrial action is set to last until 6pm on Friday, January 12. Anyone who planned to travel within the strike period has been advised by Deutsche Bahn to delay their journey until after January 12, preferably until January 15 or 16. 

Affected passengers have been told that their original ticket will be valid for transport at a later date and alternative routes can be used to reach the final destination on their ticket. Seat reservations can be cancelled at no extra cost.

Why are train drivers in Germany going on strike?

The GDL strike set to begin this week will be the third since November. It follows a vote in December which saw 97 percent of GDL members vote in favour of indefinite strike action after negotiations with DB bosses proved unfruitful. Despite the overwhelming majority, union leader Claus Welesky promised that members would hold off on their third strike until after the Christmas holidays.

So far, DB has continued to refuse all of the union’s specific demands. One point in particular has been completely ignored - the GDL’s demand to reduce working hours from 38 hours to 35 per week with no pay cut. The fact that DB had not yet made any offers related to reduced working hours was cited as the motivation for the GDL’s indefinite strike.

The GDL is also demanding 555 euros more for employees each month and a 3.000 euro bonus to offset inflation price rises. If they were accepted, these terms would be applied to 10.000 employees and would be applicable for 12 months. Instead, DB has offered a gradual 11-percent pay increase over three years and a 2.850-euro inflation bonus, with no mention of reduced hours.

Since the last warning strike on December 7, reports by three German news publications also revealed that DB bosses received millions of euros' worth of bonuses for 2022, despite chronic train delays and disruption for passengers. The bonuses mean that the nine executive employees working at DB likely saw their annual salary rise from 4 million euros to 9 million euros in 2022.

Though the GDL is the smaller of the two unions at DB, EVG being the biggest, the fact that a high number of GDL members are train drivers means that the union can greatly disrupt transportation during a strike. During the last warning strike, 80 percent of long-distance trains in Germany were cancelled.

Roads blocked across Germany as farmers’ protest continues

Disruption to transportation in Germany this week will not be limited to rail. Monday morning saw farmers bring roads to a standstill, as blockades using tractors began across the country. The protests are scheduled to last for eight days. Severe disruption is expected after a ruling that police are not permitted to restrict the blockades, which will target motorway slip roads and entrance ramps. 

Farmers from Berlin and Brandenburg had already blocked the area around the Brandenburg Gate on Sunday evening, with around 550 people gathered to protest on Monday morning. Meanwhile, those assembling in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern were supported by haulage drivers protesting increased lorry tolls and doctors demanding more state funding for overloaded services. In Saxony, four autobahn routes were already blocked on Monday, the A4, A13, A14 and A17.

A government decision to cut agricultural subsidies, including diesel subsidies and tax breaks for agricultural vehicles, is the focus of the protests. As the action begins, representatives from the industry have warned that demonstrators will be “present everywhere in a way that the country has never experienced before”, according to reports from The Guardian.

Thumb image credit: Martin Furtivo /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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