German public-sector union calls strikes

AP News
Posted: Mar 01, 2012 2:08 PM
German public-sector union calls strikes

Germany's public-sector workers are set to walkout next week over a pay dispute with the government, a trade union said Thursday.

The Ver.di union is asking for a 6.5 percent pay rise for Germany's two million public-sector workers, a demand the government has called "beyond belief" amid Germany's slowing growth.

Ver.di head Frank Bsirske said in a statement the union has urged members to stage countrywide walkouts next week after a first round of talks with employers failed Thursday to produce a result.

Bsirske provided no further details on the timing or the scope of the planned strikes. The move protests the government's refusal to submit a formal offer for a raise to the unions during the negotiations, he said.

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, the government's chief negotiator, sharply rejected the union's demand, saying employers had urged the union to lower it first to allow talks to seriously get under way.

"The demand is beyond everything that could be envisioned," Friedrich said, hinting that only a minor raise could be possible given recent productivity gains and inflation, according to German news agency dapd.

A new round of talks is scheduled for March 12.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, grew by a strong 3 percent last year but the government expects growth to slow to 0.7 percent amid the continent's debt crisis.

Besides the 6.5 percent raise, Ver.di and its affiliated unions _ representing professions such as nurses, police officers or trash collectors _ are also demanding a minimum monthly increase of euro200 ($270) for employees earning lower wages.

The country's biggest industrial union, IG Metall, also asked for a 6.5 percent increase for its workers.