German union calls for more public sector strikes as pay talks stall

Tue Mar 17, 2015 1:52pm EDT
 
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BERLIN (Reuters) - German union leaders called on state workers in schools, hospitals and fire stations to stage more short warning strikes next week after a third round of wage talks ended on Tuesday without agreement.

The trade unions are demanding a 5.5 percent pay rise for some three million civil servants. Frank Bsirske, the head of the powerful services trade union Verdi, said employers had made no counter-offer and were seeking to cut retirement benefits.

"With new warning strikes, employees must once again send a strong signal that they deserve an appreciable pay rise and the guarantee of an occupational pension scheme," Bsirke said in a statement.

German unions have been emboldened after IG Metall, Germany's biggest trade union, won a 3.4 percent pay increase plus a one-off payment of 150 euros for the 3.7 million engineering workers it represents.

The pay hike was considerably above the inflation rate, which was 0.9 percent in 2014, and unions say it is high time for an increase in public sector pay which has lagged wage increases in the private sector in recent years.

German schools, kindergartens, hospitals and some regional airports were hit by short warning strikes last week as the union sought to raise the pressure ahead of pay talks. The next round of wage negotiations is due to take place on March 28.

(Reporting by Thorsten Severin; Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

 
Teachers rally during a nationwide one-day warning strike by public sector educational union (GEW) in Berlin March 3, 2015.    REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch