Collective bargaining dispute at bvg: warning strike on thursday

Verdi and BVG were unable to reach an agreement in the most recent talks. Now the union wants to strike bus services.

On Thursday, the buses will probably remain in the depot Photo: reuters

After a week of deliberations on the last round of negotiations, the Verdi bargaining commission decided on Tuesday evening to call bus drivers employed by BVG to a warning strike as early as Thursday. It is expected that there will be a complete shutdown from the start of operations until 10 pm.

In outlying districts, bus lines operated by subcontractors will still run. Unlike the warning strike on February 15, streetcars and subways are not affected this time. "The aim of this warning strike is to increase the pressure on the employers in the ongoing negotiations," explained Verdi spokesman Jeremy Arndt.

Both the Verdi union and the BVG are of the opinion that they have submitted negotiable offers. Both sides reject large parts of their counterparts’ demands as completely out of the question. And so they accuse each other of refusing constructive talks. There is not even agreement on the scope of the packages up for negotiation.

While Verdi has so far put its own demands (not including wage increases) at 60 million euros, BVG assumes costs of almost 100 million euros. According to the company’s own information, the offer, including wage increases, which account for the largest share, has a scope of 65 million euros per year. In an initial statement at the beginning of March by the Municipal Employers’ Association, which is conducting the negotiations for BVG, this sum was still somewhat misleadingly referred to as the "total volume," which gave the impression that it would be spread over the entire term.

Financing unresolved

The accusation by Verdi negotiator Jeremy Arndt that the financing of even this offer had not been clarified was rejected by a BVG spokeswoman. She said that the responsible Senate departments of Finance and Economics, as well as the Governing Mayor, had communicated the financial scope for collective bargaining at a meeting with BVG. The offer moved in the appropriate framework.

However, neither the office of the Senator of Finance, Matthias Kollatz, nor that of the Senator of Economics and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of BVG, Ramona Pop, could confirm this meeting on Tuesday. Residual doubts on the trade union side about the binding nature of the financial framework are thus at least understandable.

The two sides also have very different views on the issue of low job satisfaction and the resulting staff departures. One of the union’s main talking points is that employees are increasingly moving to other companies. The S-Bahn is mentioned, but also companies in other federal states. According to the company, staff turnover at BVG is rather low at 3 percent. Changes to the S-Bahn AG are hardly measurable.

There are also different explanations for the undoubtedly high sickness rate at BVG. However, the fact that the rate of more than 10 percent is at least twice as high as the national average does not make it entirely implausible that employees are overworked to a certain extent.

The two sides planned to hold informal exploratory talks next Monday before the next official round of negotiations on March 28.

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