Collective wage bargaining between DB and unions takes an early wrong turn
Collective wage bargaining between German railway unions and employers has started. The first round of negotiations was not very constructive, though, with Deutsche Bahn and transport association EVG unable to find common ground regarding a requested salary raise and already ‘sharpening their knives’ for more intense talks.
The talks between DB and EVG started on Tuesday, 28 February and will comprise four negotiating rounds. EVG, which voices the majority of the German transport industry, including railway workers, has set a particular request for the talks to succeed: 650 euros salary raise for all employees or a 12 per cent increase over 12 months to “avoid similar situations as in the UK”, e.g. mass scale strikes and scarce personnel.
With DB not prone to accept the salary increase ultimatum and put an offer on paper, at least for now, the first round of talks failed as it was interrupted by EVG. As a result, the atmosphere between the two parties intensified, with each accusing the other. “We need serious negotiations”, said DB, with EVG stating that “DB was provocative and unwilling to enter into a constructive dialogue”.
Why the salary ultimatum
According to EVG, transport workers are not paid enough to keep up with increased market costs, whether for energy or basic daily needs. Before the talks with DB commenced, the association’s negotiators, Cosima Ingenschay and Kristian Loroch, warned that employers should avoid explaining to EVG “how badly their company is doing and why they cannot meet demands”. Additionally, they mentioned that “anyone who thinks they don’t have to deal seriously with the demands will provoke corresponding reactions”.
EVG was very vocal about the priorities that employer companies like DB might have. “Financially, it is our colleagues that are in bad shape. Anyone who wants to invest in the future of their company must primarily invest in their employees”, said the association. At the same time, Loroch emphasised that he and his colleagues hope companies will live up to the expectations and not jeopardise the future of rail by discouraging people from working for the railways.
First contact unfriendly
EVG was determined to stand its ground and not withdraw from its initial requests. However, DB was equally determined not to abide by EVG’s request. Consequently, the first round of negotiations failed. Loroch said that “instead of entering into a constructive dialogue, DB made numerous counter-demands without making an actual offer”. Additionally, he noted that DB tries to create discord between bus and rail cargo workers and break their solidarity.
On the other hand, DB’s HR director Martin Seiler stated that EVG unnecessarily escalated the talks in a very early negotiation stage. He also commented that EVG’s prerequisites had already compromised constructive dialogue and that his company is “very irritated” by the association’s stance. He continued by saying that EVG’s demands are very complex and cost-intensive and that it’s impossible to make things work this way.
“The demanded minimum of 650 euros would apply to 90 per cent of the DB workforce. Depending on the salary, this would correspond to a wage increase of well over 30 per cent”, added Seiler, who also asked EVG to negotiate seriously and “find solutions on the negotiations table”. Seiler’s last comment slightly resembles the summer of 2021, when DB and association GDL found themselves in a conflict that resulted in strikes and numerous cancelled trains. Back then, Seiler called GDL multiple times to return to the negotiations table with serious proposals but did not avoid the strikes. Will history repeat itself this time?