Deutsche Bahn: Lack of transparency in the salary structure

Status: 08.09.2021 1:22 p.m.

GDL boss Weselsky denounces the remuneration of railway executives with pithy words. Their pay contrasts with the wage development of the rest of the workforce. But is that even true? And how is the company reacting?

When it comes to the remuneration of managers at Bahn AG, Claus Weselsky quickly becomes angry. “The Middle Ages” are “long gone”, according to the head of the German Locomotive Drivers’ Union (GDL), but the management of the railway “preaches water to the railway workers and bathes in the bubbly themselves!” – That means: While the employees are “sworn” on a restructuring course and should agree to low wage increases, board members, managing directors and executives allegedly fill their pockets with bonus payments. Is it that bad on the train? Are these allegations true? Or is everything just “chain rattle” in the ongoing tariff dispute?

How voluntary is the waiver of bonuses?

First of all, it must be noted that Deutsche Bahn boss Richard Lutz and another six corporate board members waived bonuses for 2021 last month. But the top managers of the state-owned company do not give up voluntarily, but also comply with a request of the budget committee of the Bundestag. The parliamentarians had demanded the waiver in return for planned billions in aid for the railway. There was also such a waiver for 2020. After all, the current debt level of the railway is more than 30 billion euros.

The railway is building

But how high are the bonuses and variable salary components anyway? Is it true that around 220 million euros a year come together, as the GDL claims? When asked, Deutsche Bahn company spokesman Armin Stauß kindly referred to the specialist department. They call back, they say. That call comes out too, but that is where the problem begins. All information should be understood “as a pure background”, says Elke Schänzler, after all, Deputy Head of Communications, Human Resources and Legal. The few sentences may not be quoted.

In a second phone call, the train representative is even more buttoned up. In the end, it takes almost two days to get a short, three-sentence, written, coordinated and quotable answer about variable supplementary benefits at Deutsche Bahn. There is no mention of bonuses.

Compensation system difficult to convey

The background to this cautious communication is possibly the assessment of the railway that the remuneration system of the executives at the heavily indebted state company can no longer be communicated. One problem for Deutsche Bahn is the sheer size of the company with several hundred companies and subsidiaries. In addition to a handful of corporate board members, there are a further 68 board members and managing directors and 3500 executives. And all of them receive variable salary components, some of which make up 50 percent of the total income of top executives. The individual components are broken down transparently in the company’s annual reports, however, only for the few members of the Group’s Executive Board.

When the Deutsche Bahn commented on the supplementary provisions, a new number suddenly appeared as a surprise. Instead of 3,500 people (according to GDL), according to Bahn, even 23,000 employees should receive variable remuneration: “Around 23,000 DB employees are entitled to variable remuneration in addition to their fixed salary. The amount depends on factors such as punctuality, customer satisfaction, sustainability and economic success and has been cut by up to 49 percent, “according to Deutsche Bahn.

This information is then again a template for the GDL, which notes: “Here again the method of tricking, deceiving, filling pockets comes into play. DB tries to disguise the payment of bonuses and variable benefits for executives by using the reference value changes.” The fact is, according to the union: “3500 senior executives from the group of corporate executives, ie the top and senior executives, received 51 percent of their bonuses in the crisis year Receive year-end bonuses at a much lower level. ” The GDL’s reaction is hardly surprising. In the dispute over interpretive sovereignty in the collective bargaining dispute, facts are presented in such a way that each side tries to take advantage of them.

Is the railway ready for reform?

The board of directors of Deutsche Bahn clearly sees that there are some things wrong. When he waived the bonuses for 2021, he also affirmed that the variable compensation method would have to be revised – a step towards more transparency.

But the GDL criticizes: “Although the group’s board of directors waives the variable remuneration components, but only this year, then they want to collect again,” says the union, and further: “From 2023, DB boss Richard Lutz, long-distance transport director Berthold Huber and Infrastructure Director Ronald Pofalla will then get ten percent more. At Lutz, the salary increases from 900,000 to 990,000 euros, at Huber and Pofalla from 650,000 to 715,000 euros. ” What does the train say about it? No comment.

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