“Nice little company you have here. Be too bad if something was to happen to it.”
That’s what the railroad union EVG said to Germany’s major railroad company, Deutsche Bahn, last Monday as it took its workers off the line, shutting it down, during the rush hour period—a timing intended to inflict maximum damage to DB. It’s not just the railroad this union extortion strike affected, either.
The strikes also caused major disruption on the roads. Germany’s most populous state, and one of the worst affected by the strike, North Rhine-Westphalia, saw a combined 450 kilometers (280 miles) of tailbacks [backed up traffic from traffic jams], according to regional broadcaster WDR.
The union’s beef? It wants higher pay for its workers, which is not, in principle, a bad thing.
DB management had offered the union’s workers a pay raise of 5.1% in two increments and a “signing bonus” of €500 ($569). The union, though, is demanding a 7.5% pay raise and the option for individual workers to decline that in favor of more time off or shorter hours. Never mind the labor scheduling mess and associated increased cost that would create.
This comes, too, in the face of the fact that Germany’s inflation rate this year works out to just a skosh over 1.9%; it was roughly 1.65% each of the prior two years, essentially flat in 2014-2015, since 1995 it’s been above 2.5% exactly once (~3.2% in 2007, just before the Panic of 2008); and DB having raised its ticket rates this year by 1.9% just to cover the current year’s inflation.
The workers are being offered a handsome pay increment in real terms. The union is demanding more just because it can.
Nice little company….