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German rail union ends talks with Deutsche Bahn as more strikes loom

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DPA/The Local - [email protected]
German rail union ends talks with Deutsche Bahn as more strikes loom
A passenger walks through an empty station in Schwerin during an EVG strike. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Büttner

Talks between rail union EVG and Deutsche Bahn ended abruptly on Tuesday after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement, adding to fears that more national rail strikes are on the horizon.

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The talks in Fulda were the third round of negotiations between union representatives and Germany's state-owned rail operator.

Previous rounds of talks had also ended within a matter of hours, with EVG slamming the employer's pay offer as "unfit for negotiation". Since March, the union has called two nationwide strikes, including a joint day of action with services union Verdi that paralysed both local and long-distance transport.  

There were high hopes that a third set of talks would put an end to future national rail strikes. 

However, Deutsche Bahn on Tuesday declared the talks to be over "with no result", prompting an infuriated response from EVG.

READ ALSO: More rail strikes planned Wednesday in Germany: How long will they last?

"Our colleagues at the grassroots level are really angry about this," said EVG bargaining chair Cosima Ingenschay, adding that DB's offer "in no way met the employees' expectations". 

"We need our first wage increase immediately," she said. "On March 1st, 2024 - which is what Deutsche Bahn would like - is much too late."

On Tuesday, the rail operator presented another pay offer for some 180,000 workers.

In addition to a tax- and contribution-free inflation compensation of €2,850 in 2023, it provides for a gradual pay increase of 10 percent for the lower and middle wage groups and eight percent for the upper wage groups starting in March next year.

However, the union slammed this offer as "non-negotiable", largely because of 27 month term attached to it and the length of time it would take to receive the full 10 percent increase.

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"The lower wage groups can only be helped by a quick monthly wage increase, but there is still nothing about this in Deutsche Bahn's offer," EVG member Kristian Loroch said in the union's statement.

Deutsche Bahn, however, declared the union's response to the pay offer "incomprehensible".

"We presented a significantly improved offer yesterday, historically the highest offer in the history of Deutsche Bahn," chief HR officer Martin Seiler said on Wednesday. "And yet the EVG has described this as unfit for negotiation and is not prepared to enter into negotiations on this basis at all." 

The union is demanding at least €650 more per month or 12 percent for the upper income groups, with a 12-month term attached to it. 

READ ALSO: Living in Germany: Endless travel strikes, asparagus Automaten and more diversity

Minimum wage row

To add to the rail operator's woes, Deutsche Bahn is also facing a fierce battle over its minimum wage policy.

Even before the collective bargaining talks commenced, EVG had lobbied for the statutory minimum wage of €12 to be paid via ordinary payroll, rather than as bonus - which is currently the case for 2,000 workers.

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Deutsche Bahn, on the other hand, is offering a minimum wage of €13, but do not want to include this in its pay scale until August 2024. The union has categorically rejected this. 

The talks are part of collective bargaining to thrash out a new pay agreement for the majority of workers in Germany's rail sector. In addition to the railways, the EVG is negotiating with about 50 other companies.

Negotiations between services union Verdi and various regional employees in the rail and freight sector are also ongoing. 

 

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