Token strikes in support of wage demand hit German public services

14th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Several thousand German workers walk off the job.

Berlin -- Several thousand workers in Germany's public services walked off the job in token strikes across the country Thursday aimed at pressing the federal, state and local authorities to concede an 8-per-cent pay demand.

Hospitals, child daycare centres, centres for the elderly and public transport administration were worst hit, according to the Verdi services union.

The "warning strikes" varied in duration and impact, some lasting an hour, others the whole day. Verdi, which has 1.3 million members in the public sector, pledged to increase the pressure in the days ahead.

The union, which has held three rounds of pay talks with employers, is demanding a rise of 8 per cent, with a minimum pay increase of 200 euros (290 dollars) over a 12-month period.

The employers have offered 5 percent in three phases, with the new contract lasting two years, as well as demanding an increase in the working week to 40 hours.

The next round of talks is on February 25.

Germany is facing a series of strike threats, as talks proceed in the vital steel and chemicals sectors.

The unions are in militant mood after two years of solid economic growth, demanding a substantial increase in real take-home pay after years of wage restraint and a widespread decline in disposable income.

Token strikes have hit the steel sector, where the powerful IG Metall union has rejected an employers' offer to steelworkers of 3.5 per cent spread over 16 months.

IG-Metall, Germany's largest union, is demanding 8 per cent over 12 months for the 85,000 workers in the western states and another 8,000 in the east.

Verdi, Germany's second-largest union with a total membership of 2.2 million, is 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.

A series of damaging rail strikes hit freight and commuter traffic last year before the GDL train drivers union struck a deal with state-owned Deutsche Bahn.

DPA with Expatica

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