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Business

Thousands of German Engineering Workers Walk off Jobs

Tens of thousands of workers in Germany's engineering sector walked off their jobs Monday, November 3 as their union expanded rolling strikes to press its demands for an 8-percent pay raise.

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The strikes bode ill for struggling German carmakers such as Daimler

The one-day strikes, which began Saturday, are to continue at different factories each day till Friday. The IG Metall union has rejected an offer of 2.1-per-cent more income in 2009 plus a one-off bonus of 1.6 per cent.

The union called it a "provocation" that the 3.6 million employees in the metal-products and electrical industry had not been offered raises to compensate for inflation.

A car plant owned by Ford Motor Co in Saarlouis near the French border and a Gillette factory making razors in Berlin were among the sites idled by the strikers, the union IG Metall said.

The union called at total of 30,000 members out on strike Monday at hundreds of companies in four states: Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Thuringia and Saarland. Lesser numbers stopped work in other states.

Negotiators from both sides are to meet again November 11 for a fourth round of talks.

Ominous open-end general strike looms

If there is no breakthrough by mid-November, the union can declare the talks a failure and have its members vote on an all-out, open-ended strike.

A German newspaper, Bild, claimed Monday the union had reserves of 2 billion euros ($2.5 billion) to pay striking workers. In Germany, unions use membership dues to compensate strikers for lost pay.

The strikes come at a time when carmakers such as Daimler AG, General Motors' Opel division and BMW have announced temporary closures of factories to save costs after a drop in orders triggered by the global credit crisis.

In Bavaria state, the main BMW factories began a five-day closure Monday and 40,000 employees stayed home.

German companies usually have compensation schemes for staff during factory closures.

Hundreds of firms affected

Hundreds of companies are to be affected, especially in the states of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Thuringia and Saarland, where 30,000 workers were called to strike.

Thousands more metal workers were also expected to stop work in Baden-Wuerttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Negotiators from both sides are to meet again November 11 for a fourth round of talks. If there is no breakthrough by mid-November, the union can declare the talks a failure and have its members vote on an indefinite strike.

Strikes worsen carmakers' woes

The strikes come at a time when carmakers such as Daimler AG, Opel and BMW have announced temporary closures of factories to save costs after a drop in orders triggered by the global credit crisis.

Martin Kannegiesser, president of the engineering employers group Gesamtmetall, warned in an interview with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the strikes would hurt not only the companies involved but also ultimately their workers.

Early Monday, about 50 workers at BSH Bosch and Siemens Husehold Appliances GmbH in Dillingen in the southern state of Bavaria and 100 at the auto-parts maker Valeo SA in Wemding near Ingolstadt, also in Bavaria, walked off their jobs temporarily at midnight, union officials said.

Auto-parts maker Helag-Electonic GmbH in Nagold in the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg were not reporting for the early shift. About 200 workers on the early and normal shifts were called to strike.

Employees at the saw maker Stihl Inc were also to lay down their tools in Waiblingen near Stuttgart in the same state.

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