Germany's Economic Strength Brings Labor Unrest

BERLIN (AP) - Hundreds of workers represented by the IGMetall union temporarily walked off their jobs Monday at companies like DaimlerChrysler AG and Gillette Co., keeping the pressure on employers ahead of the next round of wage talks.

With increased profit amid Germany's economic upturn, the union has been pushing hard this year for more money, seeking a 6.5 percent increase for some 3.4 million workers.

It has already rejected an offer employers made last month of a 3 percent increase - comprised of a formal salary rise of 2.5 percent and a half-percent ''economy bonus.''

Following widespread warning strikes over the weekend, hundreds more workers staged renewed walkouts Monday at factories across the country.

Those included some 900 who walked off the job at DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes Car Group factory in Duesseldorf, and another 800 at the automaker's Rastatt plant, the union said.

Among others, another 300 workers at Gillette's Berlin factory went on temporary strike, while a walkout was planned later in the day at the Siemens AG plant in Duisburg.

The next round of talks in the key industrial state of Baden-Wuerttemberg are scheduled to take place on Thursday, and the union threatened increasing pressure as the week goes on.

Union spokesman Detlef Wetzel said by the end of the week the IGMetall expects some 100,000 members to have participated in strikes at 600 workplaces.

Pay negotiations in Germany are conducted industrywide and on a region-by-region basis. A deal in one region tends to set the pattern for the rest of the country.

Last year, some 700,000 IGMetall workers staged strikes for a month before they and employers agreed to a 3 percent increase in wages, plus one-time payments.

 

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