German unions strike over pay and conditions
1 March 2006, STUTTGART, GERMANY - Workers from Germany's biggest labour union walked off their jobs on Wednesday in a series of token strikes over pay and conditions.
1 March 2006
STUTTGART, GERMANY - Workers from Germany's biggest labour union walked off their jobs on Wednesday in a series of token strikes over pay and conditions.
The first regional warning strike began shortly after midnight at the DaimlerChrysler plant at Sindelfingen in Baden-Wuerttemberg and later spread to two other of the company's plants in the state.
Workers also stages a walkout at the Robert Bosch engineering company, which supplies components for the car industry.
Several hundred workers on the night shift took part in a torchlight procession outside the Sindelfingen plant to press their demand that they continue to receive a five-minute break every hour and three minutes for toilet breaks for assembly-line workers.
"In all modern automobile factories in the world, there are breaks for assembly-line work," Erich Klemm, the head of the workers council for DaimlerChrysler AG, told strikers. "They are an indispensable component of an intelligent working organization and are no relic from the past."
The IG Metall union, which called the strikes, estimated that about 5,000 people participated on the first day and predicted the numbers would increase during the rest of the week.
The union represents about 800,000 workers in the region. It is demanding a 5-per-cent increase in wages, but employers have said that 1.2 per cent is reasonable.
If ongoing talks fail to end in agreement by March 28, full-blown strikes can legally begin.
The work stoppages came as striking public sector workers in the port city of Hamburg reached an agreement with employers, raising the hope for a nationwide deal to end a dispute which has left garbage piling up on streets and forced schools and kindergartens to operate with skeleton staff.
The conflict, which is Germany's first major public sector work stoppage since 1992, saw workers striking against plans by municipalities and states to extend the working week from 38.5 to 40 hours without extra pay.
The unions fear the time saved by making each employee work longer hours could result in the need for fewer workers, thus leading to job cuts.
The Hamburg deal saw some lower paid workers retaining the 38.5 hour week, while those on the highest pay scales would be required to work 40 hours. The employers promised that no jobs would be lost as a result of the new working arrangements.
The wave of strikes began February 6 in the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and moved to Hamburg two weeks ago. Unions and employers in Baden-Wuerttemberg are still negotiating.
In another dispute, 4,500 hospital doctors stage a series of brief stoppages across the country Wednesday morning to press for a 30 per cent pay increase.
Subject: German news