Deutsche Bahn workers to hold vote on unlimited strike action
After talks between Deutsche Bahn bosses and the EVG rail workers’ union ended without an agreement on Wednesday, the union announced that it would hold a vote on carrying out an unlimited strike.
Could Deutsche Bahn face unlimited strikes this summer?
This spring, Germany saw regular, national and state-wide rail strikes as workers at Deutsche Bahn walked out over demands for a 12 percent pay rise in line with inflation, or at least 650 euros extra per month over the course of 12 months for its members.
Now, after months of discussions, the EVG and Deutsche Bahn bosses are at a negotiation deadlock. Speaking at a press conference on June 22, Chair of the EVG Martin Burkert announced that the union will now hold a ballot on whether to carry out unlimited industrial action.
“We will now go into preparations for a strike ballot, with all the consequences that entails,” Burkert explained. “Unlimited strike will become possible as a result.”
Union officials said that the voting process could take weeks to complete and that 75 percent of members would have to agree to the motion in order for the unlimited strike plan to go ahead. A similar tactic was used back in March by Deutsche Post employees. When Post bosses continually spurned their demands, union members voted 85,9 percent in favour of an unlimited strike and won their 11,5 percent wage increase two days later.
What is Deutsche Bahn offering staff?
The EVG is persisting with its demand for a 12 percent pay rise for Deutsche Bahn workers who are union members. So far, bosses have said that a 12 percent pay rise for lower-income, a 10 percent rise for middle-income and an 8 percent increase for higher-earners, all staggered over 27 months, is the best that it can do.
The current offer, which the EVG has called “too little, too late”, comes a few months after media reports that thousands of DB executives received multi-million euro bonuses at the end of April 2023. According to NDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung, these bonuses were reportedly paid to 30.000 employees, 3.800 of whom are managers.
While the EVG says it is “still ready to negotiate”, Deutsche Bahn boss Martin Sieler has condemned the move towards a possible indefinite strike when he believed that a deal was already within reach. “The ones who suffer are our employees and our passengers,” Sieler said.
Deutsche Bahn strikes could heavily disrupt summer travel
If the motion for an indefinite strike does pass through the vote, regular strikes could heavily disrupt summer train travel across all of Germany’s federal states.
This spring already saw a transport strike which affected rail, road and air. This time, the union has warned that the unlimited strike could be even more disruptive and could potentially go on for weeks. The strikes would likely affect long-distance trains and local public transport.
Before such disruption becomes a reality, the voting process will take some time and EVG and Deutsche Bahn bosses could still come to an agreement around the negotiation table in the meantime. If not, Deutsche Bahn staff have said they will give travellers significant time to arrange alternative transport.
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