German railway reaches pay deal with main union

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn and its main union said Saturday they had reached a pay deal after strikes disrupted services earlier this week.

German railway reaches pay deal with main union
EVG negotiator Regina Rusch-Ziemba and Torsten Westphal, EVG General Manager, at a press conference on Saturday. Photo: Jörg Carstensen/DPA
The EVG union, which represents most of the 160,000 DB workers, agreed a 6.1 percent pay rise in all — 3.5 percent payable from July 2019 and 2.6 percent from July 2020.
EVG originally demanded a 7.5 percent pay hike while DB offered 5.1 percent. Employees will also get a one-off payment of 1,000 euros ($1,130) just before the first phase salary increase, EVG and DB said.
EVG negotiator Regina Rusch-Ziemba said the union had won comprehensively after strike action had “sent a clear sign” to the company of workers' determination.
The agreement “is an important sign of (DB's) esteem for its workers,” DB human resources head Martin Seiler said in a statement.   DB will now be able to focus on improving its services, especially on punctuality, he said.
The much smaller GDL train drivers union remains in dispute with DB, announcing Friday that talks with management had failed.

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Deutsche Bahn execs to discuss how to pull company out of debt

Transportation Minister Andreas Scheuer is meeting with Deutsche Bahn CEO Richard Lutz and politicians from various fractions in Berlin Wednesday to map financial improvements to the state-run train service.

Deutsche Bahn execs to discuss how to pull company out of debt
Deutsche Bahn seeks to improve both financing and efficiency. Photo: DPA

Deutsche Bahn is heavily in debt and reportedly needs billions of additional euros to modernize its fleet and network. Management is expected to provide information Wednesday as to how high the additional financial requirements of Deutsche Bahn would be made.

The federal government could make more funds available to Deutsche Bahn in the mid-term through more equity capital. There are also plans to sell the profitable foreign rail subsidiary DB Arriva to get money for trains and the track network.

SEE ALSO: How Deutsche Bahn plans to improve its service and staffing in 2019

Political back-and-forth

Kirsten Lühmann, spokeswoman for transport policy for the SPD, wants to limit the federal government's payments. Speaking to hr-iNFO station, she explained that the government already provided a capital increase in 2017. 

At the time, the railway said that was the exact amount they needed to “get the shop up and running again, added Lühmann, pointing out that if government is to give money again now, “it can only be the last injection of money.”

“We need fewer big heads in the central offices of Deutsche Bahn and more responsibility on the part of local employees,” SPD deputy faction leader Sören Bartol told DPA.

Bartol, though, is open to more federal funds. “The SPD is prepared to invest additional funds from the federal budget in the maintenance, electrification and digitization of the railways,” he told the “editorial network” Germany Wednesday.

The Railway and Transport Union (EVG) had estimated the additional financial requirement from the federal government at two to three billion euros per year, as there is an enormous demand to catch up with infrastructure. EVG chairman Alexander Kirchner has reportedly reminded the federal government of its responsibility as owner of the railway.

The leader of the Green fraction, Anton Hofreiter, is in favour of using revenue from the truck toll. “With the truck toll and the reduction of diesel subsidies, funds can be channelled directly from the transport sector into the railway,” he told the Saarbrücker Zeitung.

CSU and transport politician Daniela Ludwig told DPA that the volume of passengers travelling by rail continues to increase as do the freight volumes.

“The expectations of the railways are therefore quite clear: Service and punctuality must improve. From my point of view, there is no problem of knowledge, but rather a problem of implementation,” she said.

Bartol argued that a modern railway needs a modern organisation. “This requires leaner structures in which changes can be responded to quickly. I expect concrete proposals on this from the Rail Management Board.”

What has been previously proposed
Wednesday's meeting is the third in 2019, but, whereas the others focused largely on service and punctuality, this will discuss financing.

Following a meeting with Scheuer in mid-January, Deutsche Bahn announced a package of measures to gradually emerge from the crisis with trains arriving more punctually and improving service for customers.

Their package generally included more investments, more personnel, and less congestion on the railways should contribute to this.

Scheuer called that meeting a “good step.”

The previously proposed package included hiring around 22,000 new employees in Germany in 2019, mainly locomotive drivers, dispatchers, and maintenance staff.