Questions and answers: After agreement on the arbitration schedule: What are the chances of a solution in the rail wage dispute

The collective bargaining dispute at Deutsche Bahn has been smoldering for months - despite two warning strikes and an announced ballot by the railway and transport union (EVG), there was no solution in sight.

Questions and answers: After agreement on the arbitration schedule: What are the chances of a solution in the rail wage dispute

The collective bargaining dispute at Deutsche Bahn has been smoldering for months - despite two warning strikes and an announced ballot by the railway and transport union (EVG), there was no solution in sight. Now arbitration should bring the breakthrough. Both sides agreed on a schedule and an arbitration team on Wednesday. How the chances of success are and what rail travelers have to be prepared for.

For the time being yes. The arbitration is scheduled to take place between July 17th and 31st. "Before and during the arbitration, the peace obligation applies," shared the railway and transport union (EVG) and Deutsche Bahn. However, the EVG wants its members to vote on the outcome of the external mediation afterwards. They should then decide whether there will be indefinite strikes or not. "The EVG has assured that it will not carry out any strikes even during the subsequent ballot," it said. The ballot takes four weeks, i.e. until about the end of August.

On July 17, representatives of both parties will meet with the arbitrators. They then want to look for a solution behind closed doors for around two weeks. At the end there is an arbitrator's verdict that both the TOE and the railway have to agree to. If they do that, the tariff conflict is over. After the arbitration, the EVG members at the railways will decide whether to accept or reject the arbitration recommendation by ballot. In the event of a negative vote, indefinite strikes are possible.

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. She was also a senator for the SPD in Berlin for a few months and 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.

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 on 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.

Although there is no set arbitration procedure at Deutsche Bahn, there have always been collective bargaining conflicts that cannot be resolved without mediation from outside. In 2015, for example, arbitration was necessary after several waves of strikes. At that time, as in 2020, Brandenburg's ex-government leader Platzeck mediated, together with Thuringia's Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow (left).

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