Transport disruption as bus driver strike continues in German state of Hesse

Commuters, school pupils and other passengers were hit with cancellations and delays on Wednesday as bus drivers went on strike for the second day in a row.

Transport disruption as bus driver strike continues in German state of Hesse
Lots of passengers wait for buses in Frankfurt on Tuesday during the first day of the strike. Photo: DPA

Drivers in around 25 cities in the central state of Hesse, including Frankfurt, Hanau, Fulda and Offenbach, have been taking part in the action, Verdi negotiator Jochen Koppel said. In Frankfurt, 56 of 64 bus lines were hit by cancellations on Tuesday when the action began.

On Wednesday it was a similar picture, reported German broadcaster Hessenschau.

The dispute between private bus companies in Hesse and Verdi is over pay and conditions. The Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV), which operates the region's public transport network, is not involved in the row. However, it is publishing updates on the strike and the lines affected.

On the RMV website, a statement said the strike would last an “indefinite period”. The union Verdi has also not said when the strike will end.

In Fulda, school buses were also cancelled.

Verdi confirmed on Wednesday morning that buses were at a standstill in many locations, including Gießen and Darmstadt. 

Meanwhile, in Frankfurt, passengers also had to deal with possible cancellations and delays on underground trains and trams due to staff meetings involving transport operator VGF.

There was also expected to be some disruption on the rail network.

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In Hanau, Hesse, an employee puts a sign up on a bus. Photo: DPA

A total of about 3,000 drivers are expected to join the strike over the course of the day. According to the union, about 3,100 drivers had downed their tools in the first day of action on Tuesday. “We had a very strong start,” said a spokeswoman.

Wage increases

Verdi wants to see wage increases as well as more paid breaks and holidays for the 4,400 drivers of private bus companies in the region.

The union wants the basic salary to rise from €13.50 to €16.60 per hour.

However, the collective bargaining conflict seems to be deadlocked.

The regional association of bus and coach operators in Hesse (LHO) called on the union to return to the negotiating table. The LHO had offered to increase the basic wage to €15.60 per hour over the next four years. The fifth round of negotiations last Thursday was unsuccessful.

Managing director of the association, Volker Tuchan, said on Tuesday: “Our offer from Thursday is on the table.”

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Hundreds of thousands take to streets against Macron’s pension plan

Demonstrators in France took to the streets Saturday for a seventh day of protest against President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform plans, with police expecting up to a million people at rallies nationwide.

Hundreds of thousands take to streets against Macron's pension plan

Unions hope they can still force Macron to back down as parliament debates the draft law, with the National Assembly and the Senate moving towards a final vote as early as this month.

“This is the final stretch,” said Marylise Leon, deputy leader of the CFDT union. “The endgame is now,” she told the franceinfo broadcaster Saturday.

This week, Macron twice turned down urgent calls by unions to meet with him in a last-ditch attempt to get him to change his mind.

“When there are millions of people in the streets, when there are strikes and all we get from the other side is silence, people wonder: What more do we need to do to be heard?”, said Philippe Martinez, boss of the hard-left CGT

“This country’s leaders need to stop being in denial of this social movement,” said CFDT head Laurent Berger on Saturday.

Police said they expect between 800,000 and one million people at 230 planned demonstrations across France, of which up to 100,000 were likely to march in Paris.

It was the second protest day called on a weekend, with unions hoping that demonstrators would show up in greater numbers if they did not have to take a day off work.

“I’m here to fight for my colleagues and for our young people,” said Claude Jeanvoine, 63, a retired train driver demonstrating in Strasbourg, eastern France. “People shouldn’t let the government get away with this, this is about the future of their children and grandchildren,” he told AFP.

READ ALSO: 5 minutes to understand … French pension reform 

At the last big strike and protest day on Tuesday, turnout was just under 1.3 million people, according to police, and more than three million according to unions.

Several sectors in the French economy have been targeted by union calls for indefinite strikes, including in rail and air transport, power stations, natural gas terminals and rubbish collection.

The French Senate, meanwhile, early Saturday resumed debate on the reform whose headline measure is a hike in the minimum retirement age to 64 from 62.

Senators have until Sunday evening to conclude their discussions, and a commission is then to elaborate a final version of the draft law which will be submitted to both houses of parliament for a final vote.

Should Macron’s government fail to assemble a majority ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne could deploy a rarely-used constitutional tool, known as article 49/3, to push the legislation through without a vote.

An opinion poll published by broadcaster BFMTV Saturday found that 63 percent of French people approve the protests against the reform, and 54 percent were also in favour of the strikes and blockages in some sectors.

Some 78 percent, however, said they believed that Macron would end up getting the reform adopted.

READ ALSO: LATEST: How strikes will affect France this weekend