Germany's metalworking sector huddles down for tough wage talks
Pay talks in Germany's key metalworking sector kicked off Wednesday, but with both sides far apart and the IG Metall union brandishing the threat of strikes, the stage was set for a fierce battle.
There was "no rapprochement" in the first round in the regional state of Bavaria, according to VBM, the employers' federation in the southern state.
"The economy is lacking momentum, the situation uncertain. Against this backdrop, IG Metall's demands are unrealistic. The union must take off its rosy spectacles and recognise the realities," said VBM's chief negotiator Angelique Renkhoff-Muecke.
IG Metall is demanding pay rises of 5.5 percent for the nearly four million workers in sectors including electronics, the auto industry, household electrical goods and semi-conductors.
Its pay deals are used as a benchmark for much of German industry.
In the last round two years ago, the union used warning strikes and threats of all-out industrial action to secure a 5.5 percent pay increase for 20 months.
It is demanding the same amount this time round, but for one year, and is prepared to get tough with employers' federation Gesamtmetall.
The talks are carried out on a regional basis, starting with Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg on Wednesday, followed by North Rhine-Westphalia on Thursday and then Lower Saxony and Saxony Anhalt later.
As soon as a deal is reached in one region, it is traditionally adopted in the other regions.
Hartmut Meine, the head of IG Metall's regional branch for Lower Saxony and Saxony Anhalt, warned that negotiations were likely to be "tough and abrasive".
The union was prepared to flex its muscles and "February could be a difficult month," Meine warned.
© 2015 AFP