Deutsche Bahn has never faced such a situation before: On Friday, the company was forced to shut down all rail operations in Germany for the coming days due to the announced warning strike by the railway workers' union EVG, but just 24 hours later the situation was completely different. Since Saturday afternoon around 16 p.m., the goal has been again: back to normal operation.

Train cancellations unavoidable

Corinna Budras

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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Thousands of employees first had to be taken out of the shift schedules, then laboriously called back in. 50,000 long-distance and local train journeys alone, as well as the associated shift and deployment plans, had to be replanned. "From the provision to the train journey itself to the maintenance check in the factory, many individual personnel plans are closely interlinked at the railway," explained a railway spokesman on Sunday. This has resulted in a whole cascade of new shift and train rotation planning. After all, this situation, which is unique for DB, is succeeding much better than initially assumed. Nevertheless, restrictions for travelers could not be avoided.

In concrete terms, this means that on Sunday, 100 initially cancelled train journeys could still be carried out, but individual train cancellations were unavoidable, according to the group. On Monday, around two-thirds of the planned trains will run. There will also be restrictions and train cancellations in regional transport, it said. Only on Tuesday everything will run again as planned. As with previous rail strikes, the railway is also relying on the greatest possible flexibility – for customers and itself: For journeys between Sunday and Tuesday, the train connection will be lifted, the group announced. Cancellations are also possible free of charge, provided that the tickets have been booked by 11 May.

The reason for the unusual busyness was a sensational intervention by the Frankfurt Labor Court on Saturday. Rail lawyer Thomas Ubber of the commercial law firm Allen & Overy had applied around 9 a.m. to prohibit the 50-hour warning strike. From 12 o'clock the labor court heard. The presiding judge raised several concerns about the legality of the strike and suggested a settlement – which the two parties then agreed.

Minimum wage of 12 euros

A curious side effect is that since only Deutsche Bahn filed a lawsuit, only it benefits from the agreement. For a number of other train and bus companies, the strike call remains, the EVG members will go on strike there from Sunday evening. Since the end of February, the union has also been negotiating new collective agreements with around 50 competitors of Deutsche Bahn. It remains to be seen whether these strikes will still have the necessary assertiveness after the abrupt change of course: In many of these companies, the EDC does not represent the majority of the employees.

A central component of the settlement is Deutsche Bahn's concession to pay all employees covered by collective bargaining agreements a minimum wage of 1 euros from the first day of validity of the collective bargaining agreement, specifically March 2023, 12. Around 2500 employees have so far only achieved the statutory minimum wage through bonuses and not as an integral part of the pay scale. However, a second addition is important for the EVG: "Employees in the minimum wage-related sector will also be fully included in the wage increase that has yet to be agreed," according to the settlement, which is available to the F.A.Z. What exactly the tariff increase will look like, Deutsche Bahn and EVG must now negotiate.

After three months of collective bargaining, which has so far elapsed without result, the two parties are now getting closer to the real dispute: how high the wage increase should be for the more than 180,000 EDC members. The EVG requires a basic amount of at least 650 euros per month for each. For the lower wage groups, this would mean a disproportionate increase that far exceeds the 12 percent otherwise required. The railway has so far offered a 10 percent increase for the lower and middle wage groups, 8 percent for the upper and tax-free one-off payments of around 3000,<> euros – each in two steps. The EDC has so far rejected this as "non-negotiable".

In recent days, the dispute over the minimum wage has taken up a lot of space – although it only affects about one percent of employees. After the strike announcement on Thursday, the railway and EVG had tried unsuccessfully in a ten-hour conversation to clear this point. At that time, too, the railway had already offered to increase the salary of the affected employees to 12 euros and then to grant them the wage increase agreed later "in full". On Friday, the EDC had rejected this proposal as a "sham offer".

Following the agreement before the Frankfurt Labour Court, the EDC is now insisting on speedy negotiations. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for 23 and 24 May. However, EVG negotiator Kristian Loroch is already offering Deutsche Bahn constructive talks next Tuesday in preparation for the next round of negotiations.