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IG Metall Presses Ahead with Strike Ballot

Germany's powerful metals and engineering union vowed to go ahead with strikes in support of its wage demands, dismissing a last-minute offer by employers to appoint an independent mediator to settle the dispute.

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A strike in Germany's engineering sector could damage growth in Europe's largest economy

Germany's powerful metals and engineering union, IG Metall, on Tuesday dismissed as a "tactical manoeuver" a last-minute proposal by employers to appoint an independent mediator to settle the wage dispute and vowed to go ahead with strikes in support of its wage demands.

The union selected Baden-Württemberg, Berlin and Brandenburg as the states in which strike ballots would be held. The first industrial action could start on May 6.

"A mediator can no longer help us," said IG Metall chief Klaus Zwickel. If employers were truly interested in resolving the dispute they would have presented an improved offer, he argued.

Martin Kannegiesser, head of the metals employers' federation Gesamtmetall, told Handelsblatt that he was "deeply disappointed" with Zwickel's response. He accused IG Metall of wanting to call a strike "at any price", even though the two sides' ideas on pay had ended up just tenths of a percentage point apart. "We proposed the mediator to unblock this deadlock," Kannegiesser said.

The employers last offered a pay rise of 3.3% while IG Metall climbed down to a demand of around 4% from its original 6.5%.

The strike ballots will start on Thursday and will last until the following Tuesday. Around 200,000 members in 1,007 firms, among them DaimlerChrysler, Porsche and Bosch, are expected to take part in the ballots, which could lead to the first strike in seven years in the engineering sector.

IG Metall has 2.8 million members, and a further 800,000 engineering workers will benefit from any deal it secures with employers.

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