Wave of strikes looms in German public services

13th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

The strike could start Thursday and affect banking, hospitals and garbage collection.

Berlin -- After years of wage restraint, workers in German public sector are threatening widespread strike action in support of demands for an increase in real pay in the current wage round, which takes place after more than a year of solid economic growth.

The huge services union Verdi is from Thursday calling its 1.3 million members in the public sector out on a series of "warning," or token, strikes in support of an 8-percent wage demand.

Town halls, hospitals, child daycare centers, refuse collection services and state savings banks are among the institutions to be affected by the strikes, which traditionally last around an hour and have no lasting impact.

Verdi boss Frank Bsirske said the strikes would take effect "right across" Germany, after the third round of talks in the sector was adjourned in Potsdam south of Berlin on Tuesday. The parties are to resume talks on February 25.

Verdi is demanding 8 percent more pay, with a minimum increase of 200 euros (290 dollars) for the lowest paid over the next 12 months.

The employers are offering 5 percent, implemented in three stages, and insisting the new contract run for two years. They also want to increase the working week to 40 hours.

The union claims its members would be marking time, or even losing ground, with a deal on this basis, given inflation at close to 3 percent a year.

Verdi, Germany's second-largest union with a total membership of 2.2 million, is also increasing the pressure in the retail sector, where token strikes have hit the states of Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

At the beginning of the month, Verdi called out Berlin public transport workers, halting buses, trams and underground trains for 39 hours.

Here too it is demanding a substantial increase in real wages, noting that a bus driver in the German capital earns less than 1,900 euros a month.

DPA with Expatica

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