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GdL boss Claus Weselsky: "The board keeps its high salaries safe so that they can flow even in the event of poor performance."

Photo: imago stock / imago images / Reiner Zensen

The planned reform of board salaries at Deutsche Bahn is causing unrest shortly before it is adopted. "The new regulation means massively higher salaries for board members with less risk of reaching the maximum amount," Claus Weselsky (64), head of the German Locomotive Drivers' Union (GDL), told manager magazin. "We strictly reject that."

The supervisory board of Deutsche Bahn is to decide on the reform on Wednesday. The representative of the GDL on the supervisory board will vote against, Weselsky announced.

According to the official statement, the restructuring of the remuneration of the Board of Management is intended to ensure greater fairness in performance. Chairman of the Supervisory Board Werner Gatzer (64, SPD) emphasizes internally to the body that it will be more difficult for the Board of Management to achieve bonuses in the future. In the event of poor performance – such as low punctuality of the trains – there was even a risk of salary losses. For example, short-term bonuses can be reduced if three of the six target criteria – including customer satisfaction and punctuality – are missed.

"Risk-free income increases significantly"

GDL boss Weselsky considers this to be "window dressing". In the future, too, the regulation will be designed in such a way that the bonuses would "practically always" be achieved. At the same time, the risk for managers to reach their maximum salary is reduced. This is because the basic salary, which is independent of the company's performance, will account for 50 percent of remuneration in the future, instead of the previous 36 percent. "This significantly increases risk-free income," says Weselsky, "the board of directors brings its high salaries to safety so that they can flow even in the event of poor performance."

The trade unionist is most bothered by the fact that the new regulation will lead to significantly higher board salaries. In fact, the annual salary to be achieved is expected to increase from 1.1 to 1.4 million euros.

Deutsche Bahn board members are likely to change their employment contracts to a higher target salary

Initially, the higher target salary only applies to new contracts. However, incumbent board members also have the option of changing their employment contract and switching to the new regulation with an increased target salary. Connoisseurs expect that all of the eight board members will take advantage of this opportunity, some have reportedly already prepared it.

All in all, the new regulation will lead to a sharp increase, especially in the performance-independent basic salary. Until now, the top people of the state-owned company were assured of 396,000 euros as an annual fixed salary; in the future, it will be 700,000 euros, an increase of almost 77 percent.

"This salary increase for the company's highest earners is inappropriate and does not fit at all with the wage reality of the railway employees at the grassroots level," criticizes Weselsky. He also disagrees with the argument that higher board salaries are necessary to attract top talent to Deutsche Bahn. "There is not a single example of a board position not being filled because the salary is too low," says Weselsky.

The reform will be discussed by the Supervisory Board at its regular meeting on Wednesday. In the past, most councils followed the instructions of the chairman, especially since state representatives set the tone in the body.