Collective bargaining dispute: arbitration begins: is the train now running reliably again?

Even after more than 100 hours of negotiations and two warning strikes, no new collective agreement was reached at Deutsche Bahn - now the collective bargaining conflict is to be settled by arbitration.

Collective bargaining dispute: arbitration begins: is the train now running reliably again?

Even after more than 100 hours of negotiations and two warning strikes, no new collective agreement was reached at Deutsche Bahn - now the collective bargaining conflict is to be settled by arbitration. The good news for passengers: Because the arbitration and subsequent vote by the transport union EVG will take a few weeks, strikes are excluded until the end of August. Meanwhile, the employees at the railways have to wait some time before they receive more money.

The arbitration begins at an unknown location, and the railways and the EVG have also agreed not to disclose almost all details of the procedure. The arbitrators should be able to work on the complex collective agreement in peace and without media attention until the end of July.

No strikes until end of August - is that for sure?

Yes. Both sides have agreed on a peace obligation before and during the arbitration. The EVG has also pledged not to carry out any strikes during the subsequent ballot. For the vast majority of federal states, one thing is certain: No strikes on the railways in the summer holidays. Only in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg are the schools still closed after the first weekend in September.

Who arbitrates?

Both sides were each able to appoint an arbitrator and chose mediators with a great deal of experience in political and social work. The EVG determined Heide Pfarr. The 78-year-old social democrat was the director of the trade union-related Institute for Economic and Social Sciences in Düsseldorf for many years and was also a member of the management of the Hans Böckler Foundation. In addition, the employment lawyer was a senator for the SPD in Berlin for a few months and was Minister of Labor in Hesse for a short time in the early 1990s.

Former Interior and Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière arbitrates for DB. The 69-year-old CDU politician was also head of the chancellery during his long political career and held several ministerial posts in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony.

In addition to the two mediators, small delegations from the railways and EVG will take part in the meetings.

How long is arbitration?

17 days are planned, i.e. until July 31st. It is not known whether there are meetings every day. The arbitration ends with the arbitrator's verdict. If both sides agree to this, the collective bargaining conflict is over and there is a collective bargaining result.

However, after the arbitration, the EVG wants to carry out a ballot - the members can then say whether they accept the arbitrator's decision or the present result or whether they prefer to go on strikes for an indefinite period. The result of the ballot is expected at the end of August.

"We will go into an indefinite strike if more than 75 percent of the responses are in favor of a strike," the EVG announced recently. The hurdle for the labor dispute is therefore significantly higher than that for accepting the arbitrator's decision.

What are the chances of success in the arbitration?

That cannot be said in advance, but in principle the arbitration can be understood as a sign of rapprochement and as a mutual expression of will to find a common solution. However, arbitration at the railways has already failed - most recently around the end of 2020. At that time, the former Brandenburg Prime Minister Matthias Platzeck (SPD) mediated in vain between the railways and the Union of German Locomotive Drivers (GDL). Only in September 2021 did both sides vote for a collective agreement until October 2023 - without arbitration. At the time, Prime Ministers Stephan Weil (SPD) and Daniel Günther (CDU) mediated between the two sides.

Are there other tariff conflicts?

No. The next negotiations with the much smaller but all the more contentious Union of German Locomotive Drivers (GDL) under their boss Claus Weselsky are already due in autumn. The peace obligation expires there at the end of October. From then on, the GDL can also call for warning strikes. The union has already made their demands. These include a "general pay increase" of 555 euros, an increase in allowances for shift work by 25 percent and a reduction in weekly working hours from 38 to 35 hours for shift workers without a proportionate wage reduction.

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