Will Deutsche Bahn staff be next to strike in Germany?

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Will Deutsche Bahn staff be next to strike in Germany?
A Deutsche Bahn ICE train travels along a railway line in the Hanover region. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

Starting Tuesday, tough wage negotiations between Deutsche Bahn and the Railway and Transport Union (EVG) will begin, meaning warning strikes could follow in March.


Two rounds of collective bargaining are due to take place at Deutsche Bahn this year. Starting Tuesday, the rail operator will negotiate with the large rail union EVG, and in the autumn with the much smaller – and more militant - train drivers' union GDL.

The EVG is negotiating for around 180,000 employees at Deutsche Bahn and they have put together a package of 57 individual demands. Amongst these, they are demanding twelve percent more pay, or at least €650 more a month. For low earners at Deutsche Bahn - cleaning staff or security personnel, for example - this would amount to a salary increase of up to 30 percent. For junior staff, they are asking for at least €325 more per month for a period of twelve months. 


The union justified its demands based on the enormous increases in energy and living costs and stressed that the situation for low-wage earners at Deutsche Bahn is critical. 

The EVG is negotiating a new collective agreement with a total of 50 rail and bus companies across Germany; the talks with Deutsche Bahn mark the start. 

The strikes are separate to those which have been hitting local public transport around Germany, including North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday. These are led by union Verdi, and public sector workers are demanding a 10.5 percent increase in pay.

How likely is strike action?

Before the start of collective bargaining talks with the EVG on Tuesday, Deutsche Bahn's head of human resources, Martin Seiler, stressed that the group wants to avoid strikes and is seeking a solution at the negotiating table.

"We want to burden our customers as little as possible," Seiler said. He appealed to the union to keep "the future viability of Deutsche Bahn" in mind.

READ ALSO: More strikes planned as German union rejects public sector pay deal

EVG negotiator Kristian Loroch, meanwhile, announced a "tough dispute from March 1st" and has said that he doesn't rule out strikes after the first round of negotiations.


The EVG has stressed that it wants to conclude negotiations as quickly as possible and expects a fast offer from Deutsche Bahn - otherwise, it is considering warning strikes. According to information from railroad circles as reported in die Süddeutsche Zeitung, Deutsche Bahn doesn't currently have a counter-proposal to EVG's demands, which suggests that strike action could be on the horizon.

What impacts could the strikes have?

On the railways, even minor warning strikes can have a major impact on rail traffic.

In recent years, rail strikes in Germany have affected millions of travellers and commuters. In December 2018, for example, Deutsche Bahn had to suspend long-distance services across Germany for hours because of warning strikes by the EVG trade union.

READ ALSO: Could Germany's monthly €49 ticket become more expensive?

The EVG can have a very significant impact on rail travel, as its members often work at central points in the rail system. If, for example, just a few employees strike in a control centre, this would have a massive impact on the entire rail traffic in a region. The union can therefore have a major impact with comparatively little strike action - and affect many passengers.

When could strikes happen?

Warning strikes could feasibly begin in early March. At the latest, we will know whether EVG members will strike by the end of the second round of negotiations on March 15th. 

However, Deutsche Bahn's negotiations with the GDL train drivers' union in the autumn could be much more difficult, and potentially lead to a wave of strikes at the end of the year.


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