Workers strike at doomed German AEG factory

20th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

20 January 2006, NUREMBERG, GERMANY - Workers at a factory in Germany that makes AEG-brand washing machines and dishwashers began an open-ended strike Friday in protest at plans by its owner, Sweden's Electrolux, to close it down by the end of 2007.

20 January 2006

NUREMBERG, GERMANY - Workers at a factory in Germany that makes AEG-brand washing machines and dishwashers began an open-ended strike Friday in protest at plans by its owner, Sweden's Electrolux, to close it down by the end of 2007.

The strike began the same day as Germany's main industrial union, IG Metall, announced it would seek wage hikes of 5 per cent in its annual round of pay talks with a national German employer group.

Juergen Peters, national leader of IG Metall, which represents most workers at the AEG plant in Nuremberg, admitted it was not very likely the plant would be saved by the protest strike there.

"I think the hopes are relatively small," he said. "I think the staff know that. But they don't want to be kicked out like mangy dogs."

He said the aim was to force Electrolux to reach "reasonable terms" with those losing their jobs.

Commentators said the strike was also a signal to other employers that IG Metall is a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming pay talks. It is issuing strike pay from union funds to all IG Metall members at AEG who join in the stoppage.

Many striking workers said they stopped work because they had nothing left to lose and hoped for more generous redundancy pay from Electrolux, which in two years plans to make all its AEG-brand whiteware at low-cost plants in Poland and Italy.

Picketers carried signs reading "AEG Nuremberg must stay" as they assembled before dawn at the AEG factory, which is the principal industrial site in the southern German city of Nuremberg. Electrolux took it over in 1994.

The union said the entire workforce stopped, and there had been no "strike-breakers." The strikers cheered themselves by ringing bells, banging drums, blowing whistles and making music in the winter cold.

Talks over a compensation deal for the plant's 1,700 workers broke down last weekend, and more than 96 per cent of the workforce voted to go on strike.

No duration has been set for the strike, but the union's Bavarian boss, Werner Neugebauer, said he was expecting the strike to last for weeks. The move is expected to disrupt Electrolux production, though the company has had many months to prepare for the dispute.

The union wants all AEG employees to receive full pay through 2010 plus a compensation package worth three month's wages for each year they have worked for the company. All employees aged 53 and over should also receive full pay until retirement, the union said.

Electrolux wants to move production to either Poland or Italy, where production costs are cheaper. It will retain another German factory at Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber.

In Berlin, the German government said it had spoken with the parties but did not intend to mediate in the dispute. Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber invited the two sides to talks in his office next week.

DPA

Subject: German news

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