Employers Refuse To Table Concrete Offer In Metal Sector Wage Talks

Employers in the German engineering and metal-working sectors continued to refuse March 15 to put forward any concrete pay offer in the deadlocked sector-wide wage talks, as unions threatened strike action if a deal is not reached soon.

IG Metall is demanding wage increases of 5% for the 3.4 million workers in industries ranging from cars to semi-conductors. But employers are not ruling out zero-wage increases, so the negotiations this year -- which traditionally act as a benchmark for other sectors -- could well lead to head-on confrontation.

Martin Kannegiesser, head of the employers' federation Gesamtmetall argued that labor costs were already very high in Germany and "we can't afford to allow them to get even higher". But he added: "That is not to say we don't to give anything. Our workers live in this country, no employer can deny that." Gesamtmetall has so far said only that wages must not rise faster than productivity.

Employers also want flexible wage agreements so that companies can adjust pay increases according to their economic and financial situation.

The sector-wide wage talks are carried out region-by-region and negotiations in the key state of Baden-Wuerttemberg were adjourned on March 14 until the end of March with no compromise in sight.

IG Metall chief Peters has accused employers of foot-dragging in the wage negotiations, threatening strike action at the end of March if no deal is reached.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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