German railroad workers speak out about union arbitration and working …

Workers organized in the German Railway and Transport Union (EVG) have until Friday to vote on whether to accept the arbitration agreement presented to them by the union leadership. Many EVG members have reported to the WSWS that they and their colleagues have already voted “no.” In the works there are continuing discussions about about setting up rank-and-file committees to organize independently of the EVG.

Workers are furious about the conciliation agreement that the EVG leadership has recommended. As the WSWS has detailed, the 140 pages of the conciliation recommendation contain numerous exceptions and special provisions that expose the supposed €410 per month wage increase touted by the EVG as a sham. In fact, the closer one examines the details of the agreement, the worse it gets.

Striking rail workers in Berlin in April, 2023

It is well known that Deutsche Bahn (DB), the German rail company owned by the federal government, was recently forced to raise the wages of low-bracket employees to the legal minimum.

Many received only marginally more. Moreover, the agreements contained in the conciliation contract will not only further reduce workers’ paltry wages in real terms, but will also lock in or even worsen the miserable working conditions.

Torsten from Ostwestfalen-Lippe, a DB public transport bus driver, described his working conditions: “We have a break room in the Old Market, there used to be bottled water you could help yourself to,” he said. He explained that now they have DB drinking bottles that they can fill up. “But I’m on the road and not in the yard until the evening, so I have to get my own water.”

The sanitary facilities are also a disaster, he said. “We have a container with two urinals and two toilets for 50 bus drivers. But at least one urinal and one toilet are always broken.”

Previously, he said, when they were still part of Public Services and not DB, they had a large and pleasant break room. “But DB stopped renting it and put us in a container instead,” Torsten reported.

But the worst part, he said, are the wages. His last monthly salary in the public sector in 2010 was almost €3,100 gross. Some 13 years later at DB, he makes less than €2,300. “That’s a net of around €1,500 per month for a 38.5-hour week on six weekdays and on-call duty,” he explained.