German rail union and Deutsche Bahn begin arbitration over pay fight

The long-running pay dispute between Germany’s main railway workers union and state rail operator Deutsche Bahn moved into arbitration on Monday, both sides confirmed.

Collective bargaining talks between the EVG union and Deutsche Bahn had been held since February. Workers twice walked off the job, briefly paralysing much of the German rail network.

After the talks collapsed in June, the sides agreed to turn to third-party mediators.

The EVG has appointed labour lawyer Heide Pfarr as its representative while former defence and interior minister Thomas de Maizière is mediating on behalf of the railway.

The arbitration is to last until the end of July and the parties have agreed not to disclose the location of the talks. The union intends to hold a vote among members on the outcome, which would take place in August. Until then, the union has ruled out further work stoppages.

However, union leader Martin Burkert stressed on Monday the workers’ willingness to strike if the mediation efforts fail, too.

“We can hold out a strike for a very long time,” he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper. “In the end we will be successful, I am very sure of that. We are very serious.”

The union has been demanding raises of at least €650 ($710) per month for its more than 180,000 members over a 12-month contract.

Deutsche Bahn has instead offered raises of at least €400 and a one-time bonus of €2,850 but insisted on a much longer contract of 27 months.


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