The warning strike by the EVG railway union lasted only eight hours – but the effects were clearly felt: the railways were only able to start putting their long-distance trains back on track in the early afternoon. The walkout was over for a few hours.

Restrictions on long-distance traffic should still be felt into the evening. In regional and S-Bahn traffic, operations started faster. But only from Saturday should everything run smoothly again everywhere.

It was the second EVG warning strike in the collective bargaining round at Deutsche Bahn and dozens of other companies. Together with Verdi, the union brought large parts of public transport to a standstill for 24 hours at the end of March. Verdi had also called for a warning strike at several airports for Thursday and Friday of this week.

On Friday, Stuttgart was added to the locations in Düsseldorf, Cologne/Bonn and Hamburg, which were already on strike on Thursday. This time, according to the EVG, it was just a coincidence that the two campaigns coincided.

Empty train stations but no busier streets

In train traffic, most passengers had prepared for the walkout. The stations remained largely empty in the morning. “Virtually nothing was done on the rails or in the bus companies,” said EVG collective bargaining officer Cosima Ingenschay. Despite the warning strike, the streets weren’t much busier than usual.

The EVG wanted to build up pressure with the campaign in order to receive what it felt was a negotiable offer at the upcoming talks with Deutsche Bahn in Fulda on Tuesday. Negotiator Kristian Loroch threatened longer actions if the group did not move any further: “Then there will be another wave of warning strikes.”

The union is also prepared for the scenario that the negotiations will drag on for months. “I warn the railways against dragging the dispute into autumn and winter,” said Loroch. There will be no degree that is bad “just to make it quick”.

Negotiations for around 230,000 employees

Since the end of February, the EVG has been negotiating new collective agreements with 50 railway companies for a total of around 230,000 employees. 180,000 of them work for Deutsche Bahn. After the talks on Tuesday, negotiations with other companies will follow.

Group HR director Martin Seiler accused the EVG on Friday of not being interested in negotiations at all. “It’s a contradiction to say, I want quick results for my members, I’m going on strike for it, and at the same time I’m asking for appointments in five months,” he told the “FAZ”. “I’m beginning to doubt that it’s serious.”

The railway again referred to its own willingness to orientate itself in the negotiations on the arbitration award in the public service wage dispute. Verdi and the civil servants’ association are negotiating this with the federal and local authorities at the weekend in Potsdam. It provides for gradual one-off payments totaling 3,000 euros and, from March 2024, a base amount of 200 euros and then a wage increase of 5.5 percent.

The EVG demands at least 650 euros more money per month or 12 percent for the upper income with a term of one year. The union strictly rejects one-off payments. The two previous negotiation dates with the railways ended without concrete results.