Good news for Deutsche Bahn passengers: there is no threat of an indefinite strike at the company in the next few weeks – the collective bargaining conflict that has been going on since the end of February has ended. In the ballot of the railway and transport union EVG, more than 50 percent of the participants spoke out in favor of accepting the laboriously worked out arbitration award, as the EVG announced on Monday.

This means that more money will be in the accounts for a good 180,000 DB employees from October. The indefinite strike was called for by less than half of the voters. The high hurdle of 75 percent for a labor dispute was thus clearly missed. EVG boss Martin Burkert spoke of a “collective agreement based on solidarity, which will bring a significant plus of over 50 percent in some cases, especially to small and middle-income earners”. Voter turnout was 65.3 percent.

410 euros more with a term of 25 months and an inflation premium in October

If there are no further delays, a good 180,000 DB employees can look forward to 2850 euros more on the October statement – net. Part of the arbitration award is the payment of an inflation compensation premium, which is tax and duty-free. From December there will be an additional 200 euros gross, and another 210 euros more from August 2024. The term of the collective agreement is 25 months.

In addition, structural increases in the tariff tables were agreed for individual professional groups, which will be applied after this contract term. The incomes of a good 70,000 employees will thus increase significantly once again. After heated discussions, the EVG federal board recommended that the members accept the arbitrator’s decision.

Six months of collective bargaining, two warning strikes, a court date

EVG and DB did not take the path to this compromise lightly. Collective bargaining began at the end of February and initially made little progress. The first round of negotiations ended after less than two hours. Even after that, the talks did not gain momentum. Twice in the spring, the union almost completely paralyzed train services for hours with warning strikes. A third, particularly long strike was prevented at short notice by the labor court in Frankfurt am Main.

After the court date, the bargaining parties found each other better, but the negotiations ultimately failed. Both sides then agreed with two arbitrators on the present compromise. EVG negotiator Kristian Loroch said on Monday that the social partnership between DB and EVG “did not fully pass one of the toughest tests”. A lot of time and energy must be invested in order to rebuild what was broken during the collective bargaining round.

DB Board of Management: Economically, the result demands a lot from us

Deutsche Bahn responded with satisfaction to the ballot result. “It is good news for everyone that we have reached a collective agreement in these challenging times. With this agreement, we are recognizing the excellent performance of our employees. Even if it demands a lot from us economically,” said DB HR Director Martin Seiler.

In addition to more money for the employees, the collective agreement also includes points from which the group hopes to increase productivity. For example, a more flexible working time model was agreed at DB Cargo. “This degree also ensures our future viability, so that we can shape and successfully master the transformation together,” said Seiler.

Did the EVG raise expectations that were too high?

So is everyone happy at DB and EVG? Probably not, after all, almost 48 percent voted against the arbitration award. Many may have hoped for more money, the EVG had entered the negotiations with the demand for 650 euros more for all employees over a period of 12 months. Chief negotiator Cosima Ingenschay defended the high demand on Monday that she was justified. The expectations were not too high, rather the dissatisfaction with the working conditions after the corona pandemic, 9-euro ticket and now 49-euro ticket is high.

From November, Claus Weselsky will step into the limelight

Up to and including October, DB customers can rest assured that their travel plans will at least not be disrupted by strikes. From November, however, the next collective bargaining conflict at the railways will begin – then with the Union of German Locomotive Drivers.

Their boss Claus Weselsky wants to achieve 555 euros more per month for his people and a reduction in the weekly working time for shift workers from 38 to 35 hours. The inflation compensation premium is also one of his demands, the collective agreement should run for twelve months according to his idea. Weselsky stands for an offensive approach to collective bargaining – although only a good 8,000 DB employees are paid according to the collective agreements negotiated by the GDL. Warning strikes are then quite possible again. Should the GDL achieve a better result than the EVG, the EVG cannot renegotiate. Such a clause is not part of the agreement, Loroch said.