Schroeder fails tobridge rift with unions

6th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

6 July 2004 , BERLIN - Leaders of Germany's ruling Social Democrats and the nation's major trade unions emerged from crisis talks overnight Tuesday saying they had failed to bridge their differences over embattled German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's controversial economic and social reforms. The rift between the two traditional allies was as large as ever, said Michael Sommer, head of the mighty DGB trade union federation. "We had serious and frank discussions which unfortunately did not bring us closer

6 July 2004

BERLIN - Leaders of Germany's ruling Social Democrats and the nation's major trade unions emerged from crisis talks overnight Tuesday saying they had failed to bridge their differences over embattled German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's controversial economic and social reforms.

The rift between the two traditional allies was as large as ever, said Michael Sommer, head of the mighty DGB trade union federation.

"We had serious and frank discussions which unfortunately did not bring us closer together but which did reveal that both sides have their problems with the chancellor's Agenda 2010 reform package," he told reporters after the crisis talks.

SPD Chairman Franz Muentefering also expressed dismay, but said the two sides had agreed to continue talks in coming weeks.

Sommer stressed that, while the SPD had not shown any sign of movement toward the union stance on the reforms, the major unions did not however support efforts to form a new political party to the left of the SPD.

Disenchanted Social Democrats upset at reforms being pushed through by Schroeder were among leftwing activists who gathered in the German capital at the weekend to discuss formation of a new political party.

They threatened to create a party called the Election Alternative for Labour and Social Justice (WASG) by the end of the summer unless Schroeder relents on his plans for social and economic reform.

Schroeder called on the nation's trade unions in an interview published Monday to have the courage to embrace his controversial economic and labour reforms.

On Friday the German Bundestag parliament passed a controversial labour-reform law that cuts unemployment benefits for long-term jobless Germans. Union leaders have threatened protests and possible strikes against that and other reform legislation.

A new survey shows the SPD has fallen to a historic low in voter support, down to 23 percent, while 11 percent support the Green Party coalition partners.

It is the lowest poll standing in post-war history for the SPD and it means the SPD-Greens coalition would not have a majority if elections were held now.

In contrast, the opposition Christian Democrats have the support of 45 percent of voters, and their potential coalition partners, the Free Democrats, have 7 percent.

The pollsters said respondents cited dissatisfaction with Schroeder's handling of the economy for their low approval rating.

DPA

Subject: German news

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