Collective bargaining paralyzes the country: unions and employers are so far apart

Tariff dispute paralyzes the country
That’s how far apart unions and employers are

Verdi and EVG insist in the collective bargaining on significantly more salary per month for all employees – and that immediately. Employers, on the other hand, offer monthly salary increases and one-off payments. Above all, the unions bump into them.

Because of the collective bargaining conflict in the public sector and on the railways, the most extensive strikes in Germany for many years are threatening on Monday. The services union Verdi and the railway and transport union (EVG) called on hundreds of thousands of transport workers to “a day-long industrial action”. Deutsche Bahn will therefore stop all long-distance traffic on Monday. Massive impairments are also expected in local, air, ship and road traffic. The fronts in the wage dispute have hardened. But what are the unions actually demanding – and what is on offer?

Deutsche Bahn finds their offer good, the EVG sees tricks

The EVG conducted the first round of collective bargaining with around 50 companies in the railway and transport sector. The union wants at least 650 euros more monthly wages for everyone and designated the salary increase as a “social component”. However, the EVG criticizes that none of the companies should have taken this into account.

The Deutsche Bahn (DB) is particularly important for rail travelers in this country. The union demands a monthly salary increase of 650 euros or alternatively 12 percent more salary for everyone, for a period of 12 months. Before that, the hourly wage at DB in the lowest wage groups should be raised to the statutory minimum wage of twelve euros – without any offsetting or subsidies. Furthermore, the elimination of regionally different wages is demanded.

Deutsche Bahn offers a 2500 euro tax- and duty-free one-off payment as well as a linear increase. According to the “Tagesschau”, the wages of the employees should therefore increase in two steps by a total of five percent: from December 1, 2023 by three percent and from August 1, 2024 by another two percent. Overall, according to DB an increase of 11 percent in the first 12 months. be according to their own statements “Central demands of the trade union” such as a collectively agreed minimum railway wage of 13 euros per hour and the harmonization of regional wages.

For the EVG, however, the immediate monthly wage increase of 650 euros or 12 percent is particularly important. She doesn’t think much of Deutsche Bahn’s offer and alleges trickery: “Employers are trying to sneak away as cheaply as possible: with an inflation compensation premium. It may sound tempting, but it’s no use. Employees don’t need short-term tranquilizers, they need long-term security. A one-off payment fizzles out, while prices remain high for the foreseeable future. We stand for lasting relief and it needs to be spread across the table.”

The next regular hearing is scheduled to take place at the end of April. Too late, finds the train. “The union can’t be serious about going on strike now and then not negotiating for four weeks,” said HR director Martin Seiler.

That’s what Verdi demands

Remain the demands of the Verdi union. In the current collective bargaining round, she would like to achieve a 10.5 percent increase in salary for federal and municipal employees, but at least 500 euros more per month over a period of twelve months.

At the end of February, the employers presented an offer during the two-day negotiations in Potsdam that provided for a spreadsheet increase of three percent at the end of 2023 and two percent in mid-2024 over a period of 27 months. There is also an inflation compensation premium in two installments of 1500 and 1000 euros. Similar to the EVG, Verdi also criticizes the premium. Union chairman Frank Werneke said: “The prices will remain high even after the bonuses have long since stopped working.” The negotiations will now continue in the third round on March 27-29, 2023 in Potsdam.

SMEs are concerned

Meanwhile, the Federal Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (BVMW) is deeply concerned about the traffic warning strike, which will have an impact on companies throughout Germany. Small and medium-sized businesses are already suffering from supply chain problems, rising energy and commodity prices and a lack of availability of labor and skilled workers.

“Companies and the population must not be taken hostage for demands that are not expedient in the current economic situation,” said BVMW boss Markus Jerger in Berlin. “Forced high wage agreements that bring companies to the brink of economic viability rob them of any motivation to shoulder additional costs for their own transformation.”

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