Germany's powerful IG Metall union defended its decision to hold a series of nationwide warning strikes in the metal-working sector, as discussions with employers were deadlocked. Strikes are planned for March 29 to push forward claims for wage increases of 5% for the 3.4 million workers in industries ranging from cars to semi-conductors.
"If the employers are not able to make a negotiable offer and look for a solution at the negotiating table, there is no other option than to say 'enough is enough' and to call for a reasonable solution through warning strikes," IG Metall president Juergen Peters told ZDF public television.
In a taste of what is to come, more than 1,000 employees at the BMW automotive plant in the eastern city of Leipzig walked off the job on March 28. IG Metall held a rally at the factory gates demanding a better offer after two rounds of pay talks ended in failure.
Public sector workers in Germany are locked in an eighth week of strikes but Peters said IG Metall had no intention of prolonging the protests for weeks on end. At the same time, he said: "metalworkers are not going to stand by and watch economic growth pass them by. They want a part of it."
Employers have not made any firm offer so far, but argue that wage rises cannot exceed productivity rises in the sector which are currently running at between 1.2% and 1.4%. They also want to make wage agreements to be more flexible so that companies can adjust pay increases according to their economic and financial situation.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006