BERLIN -- IG Metall, the powerful engineering and metalworkers' union, indicated Friday it will seek pay hikes of 5% to 6% in an upcoming wage round used as a benchmark for much of German industry.
IG Metall's Bavarian and Baden-Wuerttemberg branches in the south of the country called for wage increases of 5.5% in 2015, while the north German branch, which represents cities such as Hamburg, asked for 5% to 6%.
Pay talks for Germany's key engineering and metalworking sector are carried out on a regional basis, and the different branches are currently drawing up their demands for wage talks, which begin in January after the current agreements expire in December.
IG Metall represents more than 3.5 million people in a wide range of sectors, from electronics to the auto industry, household electrical goods and semiconductors. And its pay deals are used as a benchmark for other key sectors of the economy.
Based on the demands of the different regional branches, IG Metall's leaders will issue its general recommendation on November 25.
The chief negotiator for the northern regional branch, Meinhard Geiken, said the economic situation in the industry is improving and workers should be able to enjoy part of that success.
In the saber-rattling that normally proceeds the wage talks, the union frequently calls warning strikes, while employers usually cite the gloomy economic outlook as a reason to cap any wage increases.
The current chronically low level of inflation in Europe's biggest economy will also play into the employers' hands.
The head of the Bavarian employers' association, Bertram Brossardt, argued that demands for wage increases of between 5% and 6% are "cut off from reality."
"The economic skies above Germany have darkened," he said.
But the head of IG Metall's Bavarian branch, Juergen Wechsler countered that the situation "is nowhere near as gloomy as the employers would like to pretend."
The wage negotiations are also being closely watched outside Germany amid calls in countries such as France for Germany to do more to boost the eurozone economy by raising wages.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014