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German strike niggle continues over pay hike and work hours

By Graeme Roberts | 16 January 2018

Workers at German firms including car makers and suppliers have been striking today to support a key union's demands for a pay hike and cuts to working hours.

According to Reuters, IG Metall has demanded workers should be able to cut weekly hours to 28 from 35 if they need to care for children, elderly or sick relatives and get the right to return to work full time after two years.

Workers reportedly have been staging warning strikes since last week, a common tactic in Germany. About 33,000 workers took part on Tuesday, including 10,000 at Daimler, taking the total to 425,000 since last week, the news agency said.

With the economy in good shape and unemployment at a record low, the trade union is confident of winning a significantly better deal for around 3.9m workers in the metal and engineering sectors, Reuters said. It would decide next Friday, after the current round of wage talks, whether to escalate the dispute into 24 hour strikes.

"The proposal that the employers have made is far from fair," IG Metall chief Joerg Hofmann told a news conference in Frankfurt. "An offer of a 2% wage rise is more like a provocation."

Flash strikes also took place on Tuesday at Schaeffler, Bosch Rexroth, ZF Friedrichshafen, Siemens, BMW and Osram, according to Reuters.

Lower Saxony employers' association NiedersachsenMetall told Reuters a third round of negotiations had ended on Tuesday without a result.

"We've offered the trade union alternative solutions but unfortunately we're not seeing much movement from the other side yet," said head Volker Schmidt.

Reuters said employers rejected the demands to cut hours unless working time for others could be increased temporarily as well. They argue that workers in Germany's industrial sector already have shorter weeks than peers in other countries and are concerned reducing hours further would hurt German competitiveness.