Wednesday 21 February 2018

German workers down tools in 'warning' over wages

Alice Baghdjian

THOUSANDS of workers in Germany's engineering sector walked out on strike over a wage dispute yesterday, in what the powerful IG Metall trade union warned could be just the start of strikes aiming to push wage negotiations.

Around 30,000 workers in Germany's manufacturing sector downed tools until midday, affecting more than 100 companies, including German carmaker Daimler, after regional negotiations stalled in April.

"Our patience is at an end, we want a 6.5pc wage increase," said Oliver Burkhard, a regional union leader.

"If employers don't get moving, then today's warning strikes will be just the beginning. We're ready for a fight," he said.

Daimler's Sprinter plant in Duesseldorf was hit by the strikes as 800 workers walked out, IG Metall said. The trade union, one of Germany's largest, said further strike action was planned in southern Germany today.

Years of wage restraint have boosted Germany's competitiveness and helped to cut its unemployment rate to a two-decade low.

Wage rises in many other eurozone countries have been steeper than in Germany in recent years, fuelling the economic divergence which has underpinned the debt crisis in the single currency area.

This year, the wages of around nine million workers are up for negotiation in Europe's largest economy, and deals agreed so far have outstripped inflation.

IG Metall is asking for a 6.5pc wage increase this year for its 3.6 million members nationwide, and rejected an offer of 3pc over 14 months for 700,000 workers in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia last month, describing it as a farce.

Regional union leader for the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Joerg Hofmann, said he expected a deal to be reached by May 15. "Otherwise we'll show them the red card," he said.

German public sector union ver.di clinched a wage increase of 6.3pc over 24 months for two million workers in March in the third round of negotiations, ending a series of warning strikes that had disrupted transport and services.

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