Is there a retired railroad pensioner here?

Dietmar Polster is a pensioner - and a clinic cleaner. This Thursday, the man from Dresden is on his way to Magdeburg to see member of the Bundestag Burkhard Lischka (SPD). A good deal of anger has been driving the ex-Reichsbahner to politicians, trade unionists and lobbyists for a good 20 years. His goal: justice. And as the spokesman for the Saxon senior group in the railway and transport union (EVG), the former shunter, dispatcher and dispatcher at the Dresden-Friedrichstadt freight yard is not only on the move on his own behalf.

Like the 66-year-old who is now 66, tens of thousands of colleagues paid into the pension scheme of the GDR state railway during the GDR era - a total of around 400 million marks annually, each worth an estimated 40 million euros. But to this day they are told that they have no entitlement. Miners, postal workers, nurses and other professional groups are also familiar with the problem of non-recognition of their supplementary pension from the GDR era. Polster & Co defend themselves against the unequal treatment of their colleagues in the West and two weeks ago founded a “task force” - “also to ally ourselves with other disadvantaged people,” he says.

After the fall of the Wall, around 125,000 Reichsbahners were transferred to Deutsche Bahn AG (DB). According to the company, 31,500 of these are still employed by DB. Of the roughly 18,800 employees who were with the Reichsbahn for at least ten years in 1990 (condition for entitlement), none of them have any entitlement to a company pension, according to the company when asked by SZ. Not even from the roughly 90,000 colleagues who, according to Dietmar Polster, have already retired. The Federal Labor Court decided that in 2012 because the Reichsbahn's pension scheme was assigned to social security as early as 1974.

"That is a representation that does not correspond to the truth," writes the state association of the Saxon EVG seniors in a letter to the SPD chancellor candidate Martin Schulz. The pension scheme of the Reichsbahn never belonged to the social security of the GDR; additional contributions were paid for it - as also documented in the unification agreement.

The Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs "denied the Reichsbahn's payments until 2012 and then confirmed them," the letter said. With the misinformation that there had been no payment of contributions, the Bundestag was induced in 1993 to transfer the pension claims of the Reichsbahner without that pension share to the Social Security Code (SGB VI). While Reichsbahner had been expropriated, Bundesbahner had received an average of 300 to 400 euros a month since 1994 - a total of five billion euros from the state budget.

And where has the paid-in money of the Reichsbahner gone? "We do not know to what extent the Deutsche Reichsbahn has set up provisions," the DB says. Federal and Reichsbahn were merged in 1994 to form the Federal Railroad Assets (BEV) as an authority and legal successor, says a spokeswoman. The Deutsche Bahn AG was re-established in 1994, liabilities of both Deutsche Bahn, including any pension entitlements, remained legally with the BEV.

Critics assume that Deutsche Bahn is counting on the problem being resolved naturally sooner or later. In fact, the ranks of the ex-Reichsbahner are thinning. What is preventing the group, which is pressing for the same agreements with the warring unions EVG and GDL in collective bargaining agreements, from establishing pension equity regardless of the law? "There have always been different employment groups in company pension schemes," replies the railroad: for example civil servants, compulsorily insured ex-Bundesbahner with conditions similar to the public service, ex-Reichsbahner and new DB employees with the right to a collectively regulated pension.

The state-owned company feels safe and, according to its own statements, has not made any provisions for possible payments. However, it admits that "in connection with German reunification, former employees of the Deutsche Reichsbahn experienced individual disadvantages in the transition to old-age pensions". "Efforts have been made again and again" to reduce these disadvantages. Collective bargaining agreements concluded with trade unions take into account previous employment periods from time in the Reichsbahn, open up the possibility of a company pension subsidy and are thus an “acceptable solution”.

The German Trade Union Confederation sees it differently. Saxony's DGB boss Iris Kloppich advocates a state fund that covers the claims of those affected. "But I am skeptical as to whether it will still be possible to find solutions for special professional groups from GDR times that will have to be found against a powerful finance minister from the West," she says. Politicians from all parties from the East would have to work for this.

An ally is Saxony's Minister for Equality, Petra Köpping (SPD). “We urgently need a political solution at the federal level,” she says. Köpping also advocates a “justice fund”. And Dietmar Polster, who is looking for completely different supporters after 45 years as a pensioner at the Güterbahn, also met open ears on his trip to Saxony-Anhalt. SPD country chief Lischka also wants to stand up for the Reichsbahner. For upholstery, severance payments of 8,000 to 12,000 euros each would be a success.