[BERLIN] A seven-day strike by German train drivers could cost the German economy 500 million euros (US$556.70 million), Germany's DIHK Chambers of Commerce said on Monday.
The strike, the eighth in a dispute between the GDL train drivers union and state-owned Deutsche Bahn over work conditions, starts at 1300 GMT on Monday for freight trains and will be extended to passenger trains from Tuesday. The stoppages continue until 0700 GMT on Sunday morning.
The strike could create supply chain difficulties for German companies, DIHK President Eric Schweitzer said. "Warehouses will empty out, production will stutter, production may even come to a halt," Mr Schweitzer said.
Economists at Unicredit forecast the strike could knock 0.1 percentage points off gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter. Analyst Andreas Rees currently expects German economic growth of 0.5 per cent in the quarter.
German chemicals and steel companies are among those most affected by the strike. Around 200,000 tonnes of steel products are transported by rail each day, the German steel federation said.
ThyssenKrupp, which mainly transports its products via rail and ship, said it was looking at alternatives. However, given the large volumes it transports between its plants via rail, the amount it could easily put on other forms of transport was limited, it said in a statement.
On Monday, union GDL said Deutsche Bahn had used delaying tactics in the negotiations and that the union would not agree to mediation.
Union boss Claus Weselky said the union did not want its members to be forced onto the same labour agreement as negotiated for the members of rival union EVG, which sets out different conditions for certain types of driver. "They're trying to create a two-class workforce," he told a press conference.
Deutsche Bahn has described the strike as excessive.