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Germany

Germany's Public Service Workers, Government Strike Pay Deal

The wave of public service industry strikes that has hit Germany since mid-February could finally be at an end after public sector workers agreed a new pay deal with the federal government and local authorities.

A man striking at the Hanover Airport on March 5, 2008

The agreement means German public sector employees will be going to work on Tuesday

Negotiations over the weekend between the government, officials representing local authorities across the country and Germany's powerful services union Verdi ended with an agreement that would see 1.3 million public service workers receive a monthly increase of 50 euros ($78) plus 3.1 percent backdated to January.

The deal, which averted the prospect of a nationwide strike, was agreed to by state and municipal authorities on Monday, March 31.

"We have accepted a very painful deal after exceedingly hard negotiations," Thomas Boehle, the head of the municipal employers' association, said Monday after three days of talks.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, announcing details of the agreement, said the deal calls for a 2.8 percent increase plus a one-time payment of 225 euros.

People sitting on luggage in front of empty check-in counters at Dusseldorf Airport

Short-term warning strikes led to chaos at airports in Germany earlier in March

In exchange, staff in western Germany will now work 39 hours per week, half an hour more than is currently the case for public sector workers on the local level. Staff in the former communist east already work 40 hours weekly.

Wages for workers in eastern Germany are to be harmonized with those in the west retroactively from Jan. 1.

Staff in particularly strenuous jobs, including bus drivers, hospital staff and childcare workers, are also to receive more time off.

Service sector union hails breakthrough

Verdi called the deal a "great success" that spared Germans the inconvenience of mass industrial action in the public sector.

Chairman Frank Bsirske said the deal meant that public service workers would receive an increase above the annual inflation rate for the first time in many years.

"It is far from certain whether a better deal could have been reached even after a long strike," he said.

Frank Bsirske

Bsirske believed a strike could not have got a better deal

Bsirske said the agreement averaged out at 7.9 percent over two years, more than the employers' original offer of 5 percent.

Mediators last weak proposed an improved offer, which was turned down by the union amid threats of widespread industrial action if no compromise was reached.

Other sector strikes to go ahead

Verdi has staged a series of token strikes since mid-February, affecting hospitals, public transport, daycare centers and airports.

Stronger economic growth of 2.9 percent in 2006 and 2.5 percent last year provided ammunition for demands in various sectors for a substantial pay rise.

However, despite the agreement, Verdi announced that postal workers would stage pinpoint strikes on Tuesday to press demands for more pay, following the breakdown of talks with management on Friday.

And after stalling in late February, wage talks will restart Tuesday in the chemical sector, which employs 550,000 people in Germany.

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