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Danish rail staff return to work after strike action

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Danish rail staff return to work after strike action
Striking DSB staff returned to work in Denmark on Thursday but many trains are awaiting service. Photo: Johan Rosemynthe//DSB

Maintenance staff with national rail operator DSB are returning to work on Thursday after days of strike action caused major delays on train services. Disruptions will continue due to a work backlog, DSB said.

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DSB said in a statement that its staff were returning to work, ending a non-contractual strike action that began on Monday.

The strikes meant that DSB was unable to run as many trains as normal, resulting in cancellations and reduced capacity. Disruptions are expected to continue in the coming days as the company catches up with a backlog of servicing on its machines.

Around 700 staff from DSB’s maintenance workshops took part in the action, which was not trade-union-sanctioned, in protest at ongoing wage negotiations.

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The national chairman of the trade union for rail maintenance workers, Fællesorganisationen Jernbanedrift, said on Tuesday that the strikes were in protest at DSB’s approach to wage negotiations, which he called a “dictated wage negotiation”.

A wage increase of 2.7 percent was offered by DSB according to the union leader, Jens Kjeldsen.

“It didn’t matter what we offered. We could take the 2.7 percent or leave it. So we said we’d leave,” Kjeldsen said in comments to TV2 Øst.

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DSB’s head of information Tony Bispeskov confirmed on Thursday that the workers had returned to their posts, however.

“We can confirm that the technicians have come back to work after a non-contractual strike,” Bispeskov said.

“They are back now and can begin to climb the bulk of the many trains waiting to be serviced at workshops,” he said.

The strikes are described as “unsanctioned” (overenskomststridige) because they were not approved or announced by the rail workers’ trade union. This makes them in breach of Danish labour laws, leaving the rail staff open to potential fines by the national Arbejdsretten (Labour Court).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is a Danish collective bargaining agreement?

Strikes approved by trade unions and announced in advance to employers are a common occurrence in Denmark when collective bargaining negotiations for wage and working conditions (overenskomster) hit a deadlock. In such situations, workers are not in breach of labour laws when striking but this was not the case for the DSB strikes this week.

Because the trains have not been serviced for several days, a backlog is likely to continue to affect passengers.

“There are some differences between the different train types. If you take the IC-3 train, that’s a train normally have 96 of. At the moment, 72 of them are at the workshop,” Bispeskov said.

“That has had some consequences in the form of cancellations and some trains have been very short,” he said.

It is expected to take several days for DSB to return to normal service.

“We expect it could be up to two weeks before we are back completely,” Bispeskov said.

Customers are advised to check whether their services are affected via the DSB website or Rejseplanen platform.

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