German public sector workers to strike for more pay

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German unions on Tuesday called for nationwide "warning strikes" in the public sector this month after state and local governments rejected their demands for a wage hike.

The unions, representing some 2.3 million public employees, are seeking a six-percent pay rise or at least an additional 200 euros ($245) a month over the coming year.

But employers have failed to make an offer despite two rounds of talks, Germany's leading services sector union Verdi said in a statement. It called for hours-long warning strikes to begin "before Easter".

"The employers need this wake-up call," added Ulrich Silberbach, head of the DBB civil servants' union.

The unions did not specify which sectors would be targeted. A series of similar strikes in 2016 severely disrupted life in Germany when rubbish collection, daycare, hospitals and transport were hit by walkouts.

Employers have dismissed the latest wage demands as too expensive. Verdi leader Frank Bsirske said the unions' demands were justified given Germany's 36.6-billion-euro budget surplus in 2017.

"The economy is booming... When, if not now, can public employees share in these positive developments?" asked Bsirske.

Short warning strikes are traditionally used as the opening shot in wage disputes with employers in Germany, before unions resort to staging stronger industrial action.

Talks with employers are due to resume on April 15, according to Verdi.

The ambitious wage demands come after the powerful IG Metall metalworkers' union last month secured a 4.3-percent wage hike as well as the right to more flexible work hours for nearly four million workers.

They had also gone into talks demanding a six-percent wage boost.

German wage negotiations are under close scrutiny from eurozone central bankers, as they could help drive up inflation in the 19-nation single currency zone towards the European Central Bank's target of just below 2.0 percent.

© 2018 AFP

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