The consequences of the collective bargaining agreement on the railways


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As of: 08/28/2023 6:03 p.m

According to the DB Group, it is the most expensive wage round for the railways to date: the wage dispute with the EVG has been settled. But when will employees get more money? What role does the GDL play? Answers to central questions.

Further strikes in rail transport have been averted, at least for the coming weeks. The railway and transport union (EVG) has accepted the arbitration award, which was worked out in July with the arbitrators Heide Pfarr and Thomas de Maizière. This settled the collective bargaining conflict between EVG and Deutsche Bahn.

What’s in arbitration award – and what does it cost?

According to the arbitration agreement, around 180,000 Deutsche Bahn employees will receive €410 more per month in two stages over a period of 25 months. The first stage of 200 euros is to be paid from December, the second from August of the coming year. In addition, all employees are to receive a tax and duty-free inflation compensation premium of EUR 2,850 in October.

Structural increases in the tariff tables were also agreed for individual professional groups after the end of the term. The incomes of a good 70,000 employees will thus increase significantly once again. The arbitration decision provides for a record wage increase: According to the DB Group, it is the most expensive wage increase in the history of Deutsche Bahn.

It is not yet clear how expensive the agreement will be for Deutsche Bahn. The cost of the last offer was estimated by Bahn HR Director Martin Seiler at almost 1.3 billion euros. Regarding the arbitration decision, Seiler said that the recommendation would “take Deutsche Bahn to its limits economically.” A “financial overload of the railway” was avoided. When it comes to future increases in fares, the DB Group could also argue with increased wage costs.

How hard was the wage conflict?

The union EVG and the railways have been arguing about a new collective agreement since the end of February. In the first round of negotiations, progress was very small – so the EVG put pressure on twice with warning strikes. Both times, train traffic in Germany was almost completely paralyzed for hours. A third warning strike was prevented by the labor court in Frankfurt am Main in mid-May.

After the court meeting, negotiations made much better progress, but ultimately collapsed at the end of June. A two-week arbitration process followed, with the arbitration decision now being accepted as the result.

And what did it cost?

According to Deutsche Bahn, the warning strikes have cost the group 100 million euros. But even beyond the financial damage, the severity of the dispute should not be without consequences. Even with the arbitration compromise, the social partnership between Deutsche Bahn and EVG “did not fully pass one of the toughest tests,” said EVG negotiator Kristian Loroch today. A lot of time and energy must be invested in order to rebuild what was broken during the collective bargaining round.

DB HR Director Seiler said it was “good news for everyone that we have reached a collective agreement in these challenging times”. With the degree, the group recognizes the “excellent performance of our employees”.

Is it now clear that there will be no more rail strikes in 2023?

No, because collective bargaining with the pro-active Union of German Locomotive Drivers (GDL) and their boss, Claus Weselsky, will begin in the fall. He wants to achieve 555 euros more per month and a reduction in the weekly working time for shift workers from 38 to 35 hours. The inflation compensation premium is also one of his demands.

In recent years, negotiations between DB and GDL have often been tough. Union boss Weselsky usually does not save on public appearances with accusations towards the DB board. It was only in June that he described the DB Group as incapable of managing railway operations in Germany.

Weselsky has proved often enough that he is willing to enforce his demands with tough strikes. The peace obligation between the railways and the GDL ends on October 31st – after that the next tariff dispute begins. From November there could be new strikes. Observers even consider it likely.

Does the GDL union want an even higher degree?

GDL boss Weselsky could aim for that. Because as chairman of the smaller railway union, he is under particular pressure to show successes. Unions compete among themselves for members.

Should the GDL achieve a better result than the EVG, the EVG cannot renegotiate. Such a clause is not part of the agreement, said EVG negotiator Loroch.

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