13 Mar 2024, 13:33
Benjamin Wehrmann

Labour shortage could lead to "collapse" of German public transport by 2030 - union

Clean Energy Wire

Public transport in Germany could be headed for a “collapse” if the government does not take measures to abate the “massive labour shortage” in the sector, labour union Verdi has said. About half of the current workforce will reach pension age over the next six years or are likely to leave their job for other reasons, according to an analysis commissioned by Verdi of employment figures in the public transport sector by 2030. A substantial improvement of working conditions in the sector is necessary to keep the current level of service intact, the labour union argued. An ongoing series of strikes in short- and long-distance public transport services has shaken the sector in Germany in recent months, with workers demanding better pay and fewer hours. Besides the planned strikes, the reliability of many public transport services in recent years has suffered due to staff shortages, meaning services had to be temporarily cancelled or reduced. “The sector faces massive problems in filling vacant positions, the fluctuation of workers is above average, and many people enter pension age soon,” Verdi warned. The union said the government’s goal of doubling passenger numbers in trains, buses and other public transport systems by 2030 can only be achieved “if working conditions are made more attractive”. About 87,000 additional positions beyond the replacement of existing ones could be necessary to reach this goal, Verdi said, gauging the additional annual costs at about 4 billion euros.

In a bid to boost public transport use, the government last year introduced the flat-rate Germany Ticket, which allows users to travel around the country for 49 euros per month. However, agreeing on a funding mechanism between states and the federal government was a difficult process during the introduction phase and it seems likely that differences will rise again once funding is debated for the following years. NGO Klima-Allianz Deutschland, together with Verdi, called on the government to guarantee the ticket’s funding until at least 2035 and to increase investments into the sector across the board.

Verdi, which represents the majority of public transport workers in Germany, joined forces with climate protest movement Fridays for Future (FfF) to strike for better working conditions in public transport sector and support its green transition. Employer association BDA criticised the joint strike, arguing it meant “crossing a line” into political activism that puts traditional labour condition strikes at risk.

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