Will rail traffic soon be at a standstill due to warning strikes? At the start of the collective bargaining round, the positions of Deutsche Bahn and the EVG union differed widely on Tuesday.
The collective bargaining dispute at Deutsche Bahn (DB) could lead to warning strikes right after it started. At the start of negotiations for the group’s around 180,000 employees, DB HR Director Martin Seiler did not present an employer offer on Tuesday in Fulda. Negotiations ended after just two hours.
“Obviously, the company has no interest whatsoever in reaching a deal at the negotiating table, but is deliberately provoking a labor dispute,” said Kristian Loroch, negotiator for the EVG union, afterwards. DB HR Director Seiler described the termination of the negotiations as “completely unnecessary”. “The EVG demanded that we submit an offer without discussing the content – and from our point of view that is currently not possible.”
“Huge package of demands”
Before the talks began, Seiler had already expected a “very complex round of collective bargaining”. The union EVG presented a “huge package of demands” with 57 individual demands. It can therefore not be assumed that an offer will be presented on Tuesday, but the first thing to do is “to find an entry point and then to prioritize the negotiations”.
Before the start of the negotiations, Loroch had said that during the talks the employer would be asked for “the appreciation and respect in hard cash” that had been promised during Corona. One therefore demands to see a first offer on the table and not to be “fobbed off with warm unctuous words about the financial situation of the company”.
Among other things, the union is demanding at least 650 euros more per month for the employees in the collective bargaining round. According to their own statements, the union wants to achieve an increase of twelve percent in the higher wages. The EVG demands 325 euros more per month for junior staff. The term should be twelve months. In addition to Deutsche Bahn, the union will also be negotiating for 50 other companies in the industry in the coming weeks, each entering the talks with the same demands.
The first actions would be possible from the end of March
Loroch warned the railways against using the travelers “at play” against the employees and forcing them into warning strikes. Regarding the schedule, the trade unionist confirmed that after the first talks with the other 50 companies, which are expected to last until the end of March, the first actions are possible. “Our credo is a joint round,” said Loroch, “everybody should have the chance to talk to us, and then we will either take appropriate measures or not.”
The statement by the EVG that the railways were heading for warning strikes with their negotiation tactics was rejected by railway board member Seiler. There is no question who is responsible for the escalation. The EVG is now expected to enter into the negotiations “seriously” during the next talks on March 14th and 15th. According to the EVG, the official second round of negotiations is scheduled for April.
Seiler had already dampened expectations for the collective bargaining round. “These wage negotiations are taking place in a special situation,” said the HR director. “We have a devastating war in the middle of Europe, we are in a post-corona phase, we have high inflation and enormous energy prices.” The company wants to recognize the achievements of the employees. “But we also have to keep an eye on the sustainability of Deutsche Bahn with the large investments, not only in personnel, but also in vehicles, in infrastructure.” On Tuesday, Seiler put the total volume of EVG claims at 25 percent – that would correspond to around 2.5 billion euros per year, said the HR director.