Collective agreement for Deutsche Bahn employees concluded

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At the end of January 2009, after only two weeks of negotiations, the German rail company Deutsche Bahn and the three trade unions representing workers in the railways sector concluded a new collective agreement for engine drivers and other rail workers. The four parties agreed on substantial pay rises, including a lump-sum payment, as well as new working time arrangements for shift workers. The settlement, which came into effect on 1 February, will last for 18 months.

On 31 January 2009, the German rail company Deutsche Bahn (DB) and all three trade unions in the railways sector finalised an agreement on wage increases and new working time arrangements for shift workers. The trade unions involved included the German Engine Drivers’ Union (Gewerkschaft Deutscher Lokomotivführer, GDL), Transport, Service and Networks (Transnet Gewerkschaft, Transnet) and the Transport Trade Union GDBA (Verkehrsgewerkschaft GDBA). The settlement applies to all employees in the company, irrespective of the trade union to which they belong. Surprisingly, the agreement was reached after only two weeks of negotiations.

Comparison with previous bargaining round

This turn of events is in striking contrast to the previous bargaining round in 2007–2008, which was characterised by intensive inter-union competition. Prior to that, the three trade unions had regularly formed a bargaining association for every wage round, but in 2007–2008 GDL aspired to a separate agreement for its 30,000 members (DE0804049I), who are mainly engine drivers. GDL underlined its demand for an independent agreement for engine drivers by initiating strike action, resulting in the loss of about 40,000 working days before a settlement was reached. GDL and DB finally concluded a separate agreement for 30,000 GDL members on 9 March 2008. This agreement was eventually approved by the bargaining association formed by Transnet and GDBA and was thus extended to the engine drivers in these two trade unions. Until 31 January 2009, the members of the Transnet/GDBA association employed in other occupations were covered by the agreement between DB and Transnet/GDBA that had already been concluded on 9 July 2007.

The latest negotiations attracted wide public interest, mainly because the company’s chief negotiator in the January 2009 bargaining round, Norbert Hansen, was the former chair of Transnet. Interestingly, according to a Transnet press statement (in German), Mr Hansen had left the trade union only in May 2008 to take up the position of Director of Human Resources on the DB board.

Bargaining outcome

In terms of pay provisions, the four parties agreed on the following:

  • a pay rise for DB employees of 2.5%, effective from 1 February 2009;
  • a further pay rise of 2% from 1 January 2010;
  • a lump-sum payment of €500 for all employees.

In terms of working time arrangements, the settlement stipulates that shift workers are entitled to at least 12 completely work-free weekends a year. In addition, the rest periods between shifts are to be extended.

The settlement will expire on 31 July 2010.

Social partner reactions

In a press release (in German) issued by DB, Mr Hansen stated that all four parties benefited from the finalised agreement. He emphasised that the purchasing power of DB’s employees had been secured while the outcome also took into account the particular needs of the company arising from the current economic crisis.

In a joint press announcement (in German), the Chair of Transnet, Alexander Kirchner, and the Chair of GDBA, Klaus-Dieter Hommel, declared that the new working time arrangements for shift workers are remarkable improvements, which had until then been blocked by the employer side. In addition, they stated that they regarded the pay rise, totalling 6% over the complete contract period, as ‘substantial’.

In a separate GDL press release, the new Chair of GDL, Claus Weselsky, successor to Manfred Schell, welcomed the fact that the agreement had been reached without industrial action, while calling the volume of the pay rise ‘acceptable’.

Oliver Stettes, Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW Köln)

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