Tens of thousands metal workers walked off the job on March 29 as the IG Metall trade union agitated for a 5% pay rise for 3.4 million employees. Union leader Juergen Peters accused employers of foot-dragging after three rounds of negotiations failed to produce a settlement, and threatened to broaden the strikes.
The strikes in North Rhine-Westphalia alone drew 33,000 metal-workers from 182 firms on March 29 including major companies such as Siemens, Ford and DaimlerChrysler. Hundreds staged torchlight parades overnight. The industrial action is to continue on March 30.
"We do not want a strike. We want a wage agreement," union leader Juergen Peters told a rally of 4,500 workers in the western city of Duesseldorf. "But we will not shy away from a conflict if that is what the employers want."
The president of the Gesamtmetall employers' association, Martin Kannegiesser, criticized the industrial action as counterproductive. "It presents the wrong image of Germany and does nothing to advance the negotiations," he said. "Regardless of what we propose, IG Metall refuses to abandon its old rituals."
The next major round of pay talks is scheduled for April 6, when employer and union representatives will come together in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, representing 700,000 employees, and Baden-Wuerttemberg in the south with 800,000 workers.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006