Why railway workers in Germany should reject the arbitration agreement…

After strong protests by many members and several local groups, the EVG railway and transport union was forced to publish the full text of an arbitration/conciliation recommendation which it had initially refused to make available.

EVG and Verdi demonstration, March 27, 2023 in Leipzig

At a general meeting last week, EVG executive board member Frank Hauenstein had declared that the wording of the 140-page arbitration agreement was confidential. At the end of the mediation process, all the parties had agreed to maintain silence, and his hands were “unfortunately tied.” The EVG executive only wanted to put its summary of the “recommendation” to the vote. When members objected, only then did the EVG leadership give in.

An analysis of the conciliation agreement makes clear why the union wanted to hide it from its members: it is a slap in the face for EVG members, who are being systematically divided up according to company, occupational group and even within occupational groups.

We call on all railway workers to take action now and participate in building an independent rank-and-file action committee to reject the arbitration recommendation. The campaign for a No vote must be made a prelude to a rebellion against the EVG leadership.

Join the online meeting next Tuesday evening, August 15, 7p.m., to constitute the action committee and take further steps in the fight against the EVG sell-out. To do so, get in touch via Whatsapp at this number +49-163-337-8340 or also register via the form at the end of this article.

The arbitration recommendation that the EVG board under Martin Burkert and Cosima Ingenschay (both Social Democrats, SPD) wants to push through is full of attacks on wages and working conditions.

Even the framework of the arbitration, which the EVG announced and cheered from the beginning, makes it clear that all occupational groups will face huge real-wage cuts.

Pay would be frozen for at least the first eight months of the new contract. The first new money is the €2,850 “inflation compensation” for full-time workers. Apprentices and students undergoing work practice will only receive a bonus of €1,425. After that wages and salaries will be increased by €200 a month from December 2023 and then by €210 only in August 2024. The contract term is 25 months, running until the end of March 2025.

In view of the low pay settlements in 2020, as well as the continuing high inflation, these are huge reductions in real wages. Considering that many workers spend most of their income on food, energy and rent, they will have lost a fifth or even a quarter of their real income by the beginning of 2025.

Now, after the publication of the full text of the arbitration recommendation, including the “small print,” it becomes obvious that numerous special agreements have been made, which make a mockery of the EVG’s slogan, “Together stays together.”

Only a minority of employees, namely those who in the past did not choose to take additional holidays instead of wage increases, will receive the €410 highly acclaimed by the bureaucracy. Due to increasingly difficult working conditions, most railway workers have chosen six, many even twelve additional days and have foregone wage increases.

Now, they are being deprived of about 2.6 percent, and those with twelve additional days of leave even lose 5.2 percent of the increase in basic rates. They will therefore not receive €410, but €399 and €389 respectively.