Bavaria hit by more transport disruption as bus drivers continue strike

The union Verdi has called for full-day strikes for bus drivers in three Bavarian cities on Tuesday and Wednesday - part of a larger wave of actions for higher wages and better working conditions.

Verdi transport strikes Schleswig-Holstein
Archive photo show busses in a depot in in Preetz, Schleswig-Holstein, during a Verdi strike. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Axel Heimken

Bus services in the cities of Bamberg, Landshut and Passau will only be running on limited routes through to the end of the day on Wednesday. 

In Landshut all transport will be affected, with the exception of line 9 (Altstadt – Hauptbahnhof – Münchnerau – Gündlkoferau) as well as the school and commuter lines 528, 529, 533, 534, 568, 574, 576 and 577.

All bus service in Passau and Bamberg – including school buses – is also set to be brought to a halt. 

Part of ongoing strikes

The strikes follow a larger action which took place on Friday, in which Verdi paralysed traffic in 10 Bavarian cities in the ongoing battle for higher wages.

Verdi struck a deal for a 5.5 percent pay raise for public sector workers throughout Germany in April, putting an end to months of nationwide strikes not just in several public transport companies, but also at Kitas (daycare centres), rubbish collection, and administrative offices. 

READ ALSO: German public service workers clinch 5.5 percent pay raise

However, a separate collective agreement applies to the approximately 7,000 employees at local public transport companies throughout Bavaria, including Munich. 

Verdi, which is in its fifth round of collective bargaining with employers, is not only demanding higher wages but also better working conditions, including improved working hours.

The Bavarian Association of Municipal Employers has continued to reject their demands, and Verdi has threatened ongoing strikes throughout the southern state until a settlement is reached. 

Long-distance transport strikes

The local strikes in Bavaria come as transport union EVG holds a three-day-long meeting with Deutsche Bahn in Fulda, situated in the state of Hesse, over higher wages for its approximately 180,000 members nationwide. 

The union is negotiating the same demands with 50,000 members at dozens of other railway companies throughout Germany – including some smaller ones in Bavaria such as Bayerische Oberlandbahn (BOB) and Bayerische Regiobahn (BRB).

READ ALSO: Strikes: Deutsche Bahn to resume talks with Germany’s largest rail union

It has already brought rail traffic in Germany to a standstill twice in the past couple of months with nationwide warning strikes. 

An agreement with the state-owned Deutsche Bahn will probably also set the course for negotiations with the other companies. However, if no agreement is reached by the end of the day on Thursday, DB has threatened unlimited strikes throughout the country. 

The wave of strikes – at both large and small, and regional and national companies – comes as Germany is experiencing record-high inflation.

Inflation has cooled slightly in recent months but remained very high in April at 7.2 percent.

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Why could Germany’s €49 ticket threaten semester tickets for students?

A recent legal opinion suggests that Germany's €49 monthly ticket deal could jeopordise the future of the 'Semesterticket'.

Why could Germany’s €49 ticket threaten semester tickets for students?

Around three million students in Germany have a semester ticket – a special tariff which enables them to use local public transport at a fixed, low cost for a six-month period. The ticket operates on a so-called solidarity model, which means that all students are required to purchase it, regardless of whether they want to use it or not. 

Although the Semesterticket was considered a significant social achievement when it was first introduced in 1991, it has faced criticism and legal challenges over the years. Until now, these have been unsuccessful.

But the Deutschlandticket, which allows holders to use nationwide public transport for €49 per month, could pose a threat to the semester ticket model.

Why does the Deutschlandticket pose a problem for the Semesterticket?

A recent legal opinion commissioned by the Student Union (AStA) from the Technical University of Dortmund found that future lawsuits against the semester ticket model could be successful, because, in many cases, it is no longer significantly cheaper than other available transport options. 

READ ALSO: Who benefits the most (and least) from Germany’s new €49 ticket?

The opinion refers to an argument made by the Federal Administrative Court in an earlier legal case, which said that a solidarity model ticket should only offer a ticket that is significantly cheaper than all other public transport options.

The price for the Semesterticket varies depending on where you are in Germany. In Schweinfurt, in Franconia, the semester ticket currently costs less than €7 per month, but in larger cities like Berlin or Hamburg, it costs over €30, which is almost the same as the new “Deutschlandticket Jobticket” introduced for employees. In Cologne, Düsseldorf, or Aachen, the price for the semester ticket even exceeds €35.

The price difference compared to the €49 ticket could therefore be considered too small, especially considering that students can use it nationwide.

As a result, one university in Brandenburg has already withdrawn from the Semesterticket agreement with the Berlin-Brandenburg transport association (VBB), while a Berlin university has also suspended Semesterticket contracts from the winter semester onwards, and others are considering the same step.

Student representatives now fear that, if local transport authorities don’t make the €49 ticket cheaper for students, the Semesterticket model could be at risk of legal challenges.

“If the transport companies do not make the Semesterticket cheaper, we have to terminate the contracts,” David Wiegmann, the AStA chairman of TU Dortmund, told the German news site taz.

Matthias Anbuhl, the Chairman of the German National Association for Student Affairs, also said: “The solidarity model is a social achievement that is now in danger of collapsing.”

What solutions are being proposed?

The Conference of Transport Ministers (VMK), has formed a working group of representatives from the federal and state governments to develop proposals for a more affordable version of the €49 ticket targeting low-income groups like students.

READ ALSO: Germany’s most popular state plans discounted 49 ticket

According to the spokesperson for NRW Transport Minister Oliver Krischer (Greens), who currently leads the Conference of State Transport Ministers, their objective is to introduce a discounted model by the winter semester, though no concrete outcomes have been achieved so far.

One potential solution could be a nationwide semester ticket that is considerably cheaper than the €49 ticket. This alternative has already been given a name: the “Deutschlandticket Uni” (Germany Ticket for Universities).

But introducing this would require an agreement between the federal government and Germany’s 16 states, not only on the question of whether and how much funding they are willing to provide but also on reaching a consensus on the conditions.