Metalworkers Step up Strikes Amid Recession Fears

In four of Germany's states -- Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Thuringia -- around 30,000 workers were called on to stage warning strikes.

Thousands of German metal and electronics workers stepped up industrial action on Nov. 3 as they pressed for pay hikes, adding pressure to firms already hit by a global economic slowdown. In four out of Germany's 16 states alone -- Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Thuringia -- around 30,000 workers were called on to stage warning strikes, trade union IG Metall said.

Automakers, already hit hard by the global slowdown, were at the forefront of the strikes, with 2,600 workers at a Mercedes van factory in Duesseldorf temporarily stopping work.

Other protest actions were also set to hit plants run by Ford and General Motors's Opel unit, as well as at auto parts maker Bosch, according to IG Metall.

IG Metall is seeking an 8% pay increase -- the highest the union has demanded in 16 years -- for 3.6 million metal and electronics workers. Employers have offered 2.1% from January 1 plus a one-off payment for November and December.

The government last month slashed its 2009 growth forecast to just 0.2% amid weakening demand for goods from the world's biggest exporter, the slowest rate of growth since the 2003 recession when output shrank 0.2%.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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