Hot on the heels of Germany's IG Metall engineering union's successful campaign of strikes, the country's biggest union has launched the first in a week of actions – pushing for a 6.5 percent wage hike.
Country-wide postal strikes - a worrying trend
Around 200 postal workers in Hamburg dropped their sacks at 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning, starting strikes that could run until the end of the week. Workers in Cottbus also stopped work. Germany's services union, Ver.di, announced the warning strikes would spread from Hamburg and Brandenburg to the rest of the country over the next few days.
An estimated 100,000 packages and letters were left lying, and Deutsche Post, the national mail carrier, said recipients should expect some delays.
Ver.di is calling for a wage increase of 6.5 percent for some 160,000 Deutsche Post employees in tariff negotiations that began in April. Another 80,000 workers employed as civil servants remain unaffected.
Ver.di represents over 4 million workers in Germany's service sector.
No pressure, no gain
Ver.di chairman Frank Bsirske
Frank Bsirske (photo), Ver.di chairman, was in Hamburg on Tuesday in support of strikers. At a strike meeting, Bsirske said he couldn't understand how the recently partially privatised Deutsche Post had failed to make any offer even in the second round of talks.
He went on to say: 'We're demanding justified pay for work that will make an economic upswing in Germany at all possible. Nothing will happen without pressure. So, we're starting today.'
Deutsche Post has dismissed Ver.di demands as out of the question. But it's set to make an offer in the third round of negotiations scheduled for June 10-11 in Münster.
Workers have also announced strike preparations in southern Germany, where Ver.di's regional head in Bavaria, Reinhard Hoch, said that a company as profitable as Deutsche Post should be in a position to pay its employees a respectable wage.
Strikes like wildfire
Builders on break
Tension grows in Germany's struggling construction industry. The president of the economic association responsible for the industry in the federal state of North Rhine Westphalia criticised on Tuesday employers' representatives in the former East Germany.
In an interview with the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Josef Zantis argued that 'the unions are not the problem', stressing that employers' representatives had been reluctant to accept even a moderate wage increase.
According to Zantis, workers in the east of Germany earn between 20-30 percent less than workers in the west. And in the east, only 25 percent of workers are unionised, while in the west the figure is more like 55 percent.
The construction industry head warned of more possible strikes, particularly in the west. The situation is threatening to further split the country at a time when Germany is desperate for an economic boost.
And that's not all
Both Germany's banking and insurance sectors are heading for similar strike action.
Ver.di is pushing for a 6.5 percent wage hike for insurance workers. Last Tuesday, tariff negotiations broke down when employers' representatives rejected Ver.di claims, making no offer of their own. Up to 240,000 people are employed in the sector, with a strike ballot pending next week. The German insurance industry last went on strike in 1919.
Germany's 460,000 bank employees will vote on strike action if tariff talks due to resume on June 13 are unsuccessful. A series of warning strikes have been pencilled for that time.