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German rail union accepts Deutsche Bahn offer, averts strike

Germany’s rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) reached a deal with the railway and transport union (EVG) on Monday, ending a pay dispute and avoiding potential strikes.

Most of the union members (52.3%) voted to accept the arbitrator’s wage increases recommendation “and thus against indefinite strikes,” the EVG said. 

Both the rail operator and the union recommended accepting the proposal.

“This means we have a solidarity-based wage agreement that brings a significant plus, in some cases of more than 50 percent, above all to small and middle-income earners,” EVG boss Martin Burkert told journalists in Berlin.

Deutsche Bahn said it was satisfied with the outcome of the mediation.

“It is good news for everyone that we have reached a collective agreement in these challenging times… Even if it demands a lot from us economically,” DB personnel director Martin Seiler said.

What do workers get?

EVG-organized strikes caused widespread disruption on German railways this year, including nationwide action in April that paralyzed much of the network. After months of unsuccessful collective bargaining and one-day strikes, DB and the EVG agreed on arbitration in June.

A placard reading "Today is a no work day, Today is a strike day" is seen at the main railway station in Stuttgart, southern Germany on March 27, 2023
EVG-organised strikes caused widespread disruption on German railways earlier this yearImage: Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images

It resulted in a compromise that will see wages increase by €410 ($443) per month in two stages over a period of 25 months: The first increase of €200 in December and €210 in August 2024.

In addition, there should be a tax-free one-off payment of €2850 with the October salary. There are also special rules for certain professional groups. The collective agreement is to run until the end of March 2025.

It is the most expensive tariff increase in Deutsche Bahn history. The EVG had initially demanded  a increase of at least €650 euros a month.

Rail strikes are still possible

However, rail strikes for travelers in Germany are not entirely off the table. Another rail workers union, the GDL, is due to start negotiations for its members later this year.

The train drivers’ union presented its demands at the beginning of June. It demands at least €555 more per month, a tax-free inflation bonus of €3000 euros and a 25% increase in allowances for shift work. In addition, there is a reduction in working hours from 38 to 35 hours for employees in shift work.

dh/lo (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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