German steelworker settlement prevents strike

11th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

11 May 2005, FRANKFURT - German steel workers and employers reached a last-ditch wage agreement in the early hours of Wednesday to avert a crippling strike in a deal welcomed by the metalworkers union IG Metall, but one which employers gloomily gritted their teeth over.

11 May 2005

FRANKFURT - German steel workers and employers reached a last-ditch wage agreement in the early hours of Wednesday to avert a crippling strike in a deal welcomed by the metalworkers union IG Metall, but one which employers gloomily gritted their teeth over.

The deal, applying to some 85,000 western German steelworkers, calls for a 3.5 percent wage increase over a 12-month contract period and a one-off EUR 500 bonus payment.

The final agreement was well below the 6.5 percent pay hike which the metalworkers union IG Metall had been demanding, but also substantially above the 1.9 percent pay rise offer over a 19-month period which employers had put on the table.

IG Metall boss Juergen Peters called the accord an "above average good result" and said that "the years of restraint are over".

The union's chief negotiator, Detlef Wetzel, praised the accord as one which had achieved "a clear plus" for the workers.

"Over and beyond compensating for inflation, the employees are now partaking of the companies' productivity advantages and profits," Wetzel said.

The co-head of IG Metall, Berthold Huber, called the agreement a success in the face of shareholder-value capitalism.

"It is a good accord, one which corresponds to the favourable economic environment," Huber said.

Employers gritted their teeth at the settlement.

"We only agreed to this above all because of the escalation of the wage conflict initiated by IG Metall," said Volker Becher, spokesman for the steel industry employers federation, referring to the union leadership's decision on Tuesday to recommend that union members hold a vote on full-fledged strike action.

"This wage agreement is not a compromise such as should reasonably result at the end of a wage disagreement," Becher added.

German steel companies such as ThyssenKrupp, Salzgitter and Geoergsmarienhuette also reacted negatively to the wage accord.

"A labour conflict would have been a further serious setback for the urgently needed upswing in the economy," said ThyssenKrupp spokesman Erwin Schneider.

Wolgang Leese, chief executive at Salzgitter, commented: "It is a high price to pay for averting a strike."

The agreement reached in Dortmund prevented the first wage strike in the steel industry in 26 years.

IG Metall is also in separate talks on an agreement covering some 8,000 steelworkers in eastern Germany and talks for the Saarland are pending.

DPA

Subject: German news

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