As a public service strike continues into its eighth week in southern Germany and on the heels of a health care sector strike, thousands of metal workers cast aside their tools on Wednesday.
DaimlerChrysler workers laid down their tools for a torchlight rally
Upon expiration of a month-long truce that covered the period since the end of the last salary agreement, over 10,000 workers in numerous factories started warning strikes at midnight on Wednesday evening, according to their union, IG Metall. They are demanding wage increases of 5 percent for the 3.4 million workers in industries ranging from car production to semiconductors. The aim of the action is to put pressure on employers because negotiations over the unions' demands have stalled.
"We don't want to just exert psychological but also economic pressure," said IG Metall representative Horst Lischka.
Workers at printing press maker Koenig & Bauer took to the streets for higher wages.
Around 3,600 workers laid down their tools for short periods in North Rhine-Westphalia. At the central demonstration in front of Ford's factory in Saarlouis, in the state of Saarland, 3,000 people from 10 companies gathered for a rally, leaving their posts unattended for an hour. At DaimlerChrysler in Düsseldorf around 1,000 workers left their positions to take part in a torch-light demonstration. In Bavaria, 1,400 workers from 14 companies, including Osram, MAN-Roland, EADS, Epcos, Infineon and Bosch, participated in protests.
"It's not just about 5 percent, but also about the issue of whether we defend ourselves against rampant capitalism" said IG Metall head Jürgen Peters.
Set on escalation?
Metal industry association head Martin Kannegiesser stressed that employers are anxious to quickly come to an agreement with the union, but he left open the issue of a formal offer. The employers argue that wage increases cannot exceed productivity rises in the sector, which are currently running at between 1.2 and 1.4 percent. They have indicated they view wage hikes of 1.4 percent as adequate but are willing to offer the workers a one-off payment to share in profits.
Workers seeking 'escalation', critic says
IG Metall chief Jürgen Peters said the issue is 'rampant capitalism'
Employers' Association head Dieter Hundt criticized the workers' protests, saying the warning strikes made it harder to come to a salary agreement. IG Metall was set on "escalation instead of constructively searching for a solution at the negotiating table," he told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
IG Metall said the strikes would be expanded significantly over the course of the day. The largest actions were planned for BMW in Regensburg and BSH Bosch Siemens in Dillingen, according to the union.