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Labor unions call warning strike on E.on utility

German labor unions Verdi and IG BCE have called on the workers of Germany's biggest energy company, E.on, to walk out on Monday. The works stoppage is intended to support a demand for substantially higher wages.

Monday's strike action was planned to take place at E.on's nuclear facilities in Grohnde and Brokdorf, as well as at the firm's operations in Wilhelmshaven and Bayreuth, labor unions Verdi and IG BCE announced Friday.

The two labor unions, which represent about 30,000 E.on workers, said the warning strike had been called to force management to substantially increase an offer of 1.1 percent higher wages. Verdi and IG BCE have demanded wage hikes of up to 6.5 percent in the current talks.

E.on didn't comment on the exact figure it had offered, but noted that a warning strike was only legitimate as long as it was commensurable. Unlike the labor unions, management took E.on's difficult economic situation into consideration, it added.

E.on earnings have suffered since the German government decided to completely phase out nuclear energy and put the country's energy production on a more sustainable footing. Profits have slumped strongly because the utility was forced to immediately shut down two of its older reactors in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in 2011.

However, labor representatives said they won't accept falling real incomes for the utility workers - in reference to the current German inflation rate of about 2 percent.

"The company's earnings would allow for a substantial increase," IG BCE chief negotiator Holger Nieden said, adding that management was, however, bent on pushing through lower wages in real terms.

uhe/kms (Reuters, dapd)

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