The passenger rights organization Pro Bahn is urging the sides to put the needs of riders first by averting a strike.
“Passengers may not be a bargaining party, but they are the ones who suffer the most from strikes,” Pro-Bahn Federal Chairman Detlef Neuß told dpa.
He said the recent introduction of a €49 nation-wide monthly transport ticket – known as the Deutschlandticket – has turned many people in Germany on to rail.
In light of these new customers, it is especially important to keep services running smoothly and efficiently, he said.
“Otherwise, these people will get off again straight away,” Neuß said.
Pay negotiations between EVG and Deutsche Bahn have been held in fits and starts since February. Workers twice walked off the job, briefly paralysing much of the German rail network.
After talks collapsed last month, the sides agreed to begin arbitration proceedings starting on Monday. They will be led by former interior minister Thomas de Maizière and labour lawyer Heide Pfarr.
The mediation is to last until the end of July and the parties have agreed not to disclose the location of the talks. The union intends to hold a vote among members on the outcome, which would take place in August. Until then, the union has ruled out further work stoppages.
“We are glad that both sides have agreed to this arbitration and that strikes are off the table for now,” Neuß told dpa.
The union has been demanding raises of at least €650 ($710) per month for its more than 180,000 members over a 12-month contract. Deutsche Bahn has instead offered raises of at least €400 and a one-time bonus of €2,850 but insisted on a much longer contract of 27 months.