German public sector workers up pressure with stoppages | News | DW | 19.03.2012
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German public sector workers up pressure with stoppages

Public sector workers in two northern German states have begun a second round of warning strikes to press their communal and federal employers for more pay. Another round of negotiations is due next week.

Members of the trade union ver.di have begun a 24-hour warning strike in two northern German states in their latest bid to extract pay rises from public sector employers.

Buses, trams, kindergartens and garbage services are idle in the regional states of Lower Saxony and Bremen. Ver.di plans similar strikes to the south on Tuesday in the states of Bavaria, Hesse and Baden-Württemberg, and North Rhine-Westphalia on Wednesday, ahead of further union-employer talks next week.

Last week, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich had urged unions to refrain from "disproportionate warning strikes" after similar walkouts by 130,000 workers in early March that also hampered visitors to Cebit, the international electronics trade fair in Hanover.

Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich and communal employers rep' Thomas Böhle after last week's inconclusive talks in Potsdam

Friedrich, left, and communal chief Thomas Böhle

Verdi and the public servants union dbb have stuck to their demand for a 6.5 percent pay raise this year for two million employees, giving those low on wage scales at least 200 euros ($261) more in their monthly pay packets. Early last week, officials negotiating for federal agencies and 10,000 communal institutions offered 3.3 percent staggered over two years.

Limited warning strikes are a regular tactic in German wage negotiations.

Full-scale strikes threatened

Ver.di leader Frank Bsirske warned again on Monday that his members were ready to vote on whether to proceed to full-scale strikes if denied raises to offset inflation and years of wage restraint.

"It would then become a major industrial conflict," Bsirske told public ZDF television. "What we need is a sizeable, real wage rise."

Bsirske addressing trade union congress

Bsirske has threatened an all-out strike

What the employers had tabled amounted to only 1.77 percent annually, Bsirske said, adding that recent investors' gains from profits represented a "massive" redistribution of wealth to the detriment of workers and their families.

German unemployment is down to a two-decade low. In the manufacturing sector, the union IG Metall has also said it will seek an annual rise of up to 6.5 percent for three million workers.

Overall, wages for some nine million German workers are up for negotiation this year in Europe's largest economy.

ipj/mz (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)

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