Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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559 words

Only last week I was amused by Hollywood’s writers being on strike and this week the German train drivers are finally doing some real striking. What amuses me about this – apart from the fact that the train I had to use was not operated by Deutsche Bahn, but by another, non-affected, company, and thus running on time while many other trains were being cancelled – is how instead of solving the problem, Deutsche Bahn seems to consider this more as a PR problem than anything else.

Rather than just informing people about the fact that there is a strike, that trains are cancelled because of that and that they are sorry for the inconvenience, all displays and statements explicitly include the name of the union in question and seem to be more a blame shifting exercise than anything else. At the end, I think it’s not even relevant whether the demands of the train drivers are reasonable or not. The managers (or Deutsche Bahn or probably any other company) will be happy to claim any success of their company for themselves and present them as a consequence of their glorious deeds.

And right now things are going wrong. Passenger trains are delayed. Freight trains are delayed as well. Numbers are making the rounds about how this hurts the economy because factories cannot work properly. And so on. And all that seems to be mentioned with the implication that the train drivers are to blame for it.

But wouldn’t it be fair to suggest that any company would do (at least) as much as they can legally get away with to maximise their profits? And shouldn’t those companies at least understand that the train drivers – as entities of the wonderful capitalistic system will aim to do the same, even if it hurts other companies’ profits. Couldn’t one even say that the railway management has been aware of the possibility of the strike and just considers it more beneficial for their own profits to let their customers suffer a little now, so they can get a better deal later on? I suppose so.

And being the conspiracy theorist that I am, I am even tempted to think that having a bit of a strike now and then giving the train drivers some kind of raise in a few weeks might just be very good timing for the railway because then they’ll have someone to blame when people start bitching about the price increases that are planned for December. You see, we have to pay our drivers, they’ll say (although they already pre-emptively blamed increased energy costs for that step).

In the meantime our frog eating neighbours also have a railway strike, possibly a graver one. They’re much better unionised and more strike happy in France, it seems. Actually I once attended a French class where the teacher offered us a bet for a bottle of champagne that he could give us a news item on a grève for translating every single week. Nobody went for it as he indicated that he never lost it before. So we didn’t get to watch this closely, but sure enough we still had a number of reports on strikes in there with lovely things as TV interviews of truckers from southern France right next to a busy motorway – very hard to understand.

November 16, 2007, 22:38

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