Is EVG on track for an internal conflict and indefinite strike?
German railway transport association EVG is currently carrying out a ballot to determine whether its members will strike in Autumn. The ballot follows an arbitration agreement between EVG and DB on collective wage bargaining and will decide whether the association’s members will accept its outcome. Despite initial estimations saying that a strike was an unlikely scenario, dark clouds are gathering above EVG that could signal an internal conflict between the association’s members and board and possibly a looming industrial action.
The ballot process will last the whole of August, and according to EVG’s chairman Martin Burkert, “if at least 75 per cent of the voting members are in favour of an indefinite strike, EVG will carry it out consistently.” However, he also mentioned that in the case of a strike, “all the improvements achieved so far, which are reflected in the arbitration result and go far beyond a pure wage increase, would be gone for the time being,” a statement that puts pressure on the association’s members to vote against industrial action.
This statement, in combination with a general feeling of discontent from EVG members concerning the arbitration results, as some reports claim, could create the conditions of an internal conflict in the association and make the voting results unpredictable.
The arbitration agreement
For the record, the arbitration agreement between EVG and DB includes a pay increase of 410 euros for all workers that will occur in two stages–one in December 2023 and one in August 2024, a one-time premium inflation compensation of 2.850 euros to be cashed out in October 2023, a structural pay increase for everyone which will result in an average of 100 euros more per month, and a collective minimum wage for all workers.
EVG did not succeed with the 450 euros wage increase that was pressuring for; however, the 410 euros solution is close to the initial request. Additionally, the inflation bonus was deemed very positive alongside the universal minimum wage for all workers; that was one of the negotiations’ burning points. The implementation period of 25 months is longer than what EVG would wish but still slightly shorter than what DB proposed (27 months).
Workers vs EVG board
It appears that despite EVG and DB celebrating their agreement reached after several months of negotiations with mutual concessions, railway workers and EVG members are far from happy with it. According to WSWS.org, a publication representing the global socialist movement with outreach to German workers, many EVG local groups have expressed their open opposition to the arbitration agreement between the two parties. They claim that the deal, in fact, entails massive cuts in the real wages for workers and call for a full-on strike, which the EVG administration opposes fiercely.
In the association’s opinion, negotiations with DB were, are and will always be about compromises, and the deal that the two parties have reached is quite reasonable. As a result, going on strike means that everything achieved over these past eight months will go to waste. What used to be an intense confrontation between EVG and DB now turns into an internal conflict between EVG and its members. With the ballots open until the end of August and with protests already at full steam on social media platforms, it seems that a massive railway strike in Germany is far from being avoided yet.