German car plant strikes over 6% pay

German car plant strikes over 6% pay

Powerful German union, IG Metall, will hold last-ditch talks with employers, over higher wages and the right to shorter working hours for industrial workers. 

It will hold off for now on its threat to call all-out strikes at car plants.

After discussions among IG Metall’s leadership, the union will make a final attempt to reach a deal over pay and working conditions, union chief, Joerg Hofmann, said at a press conference in Frankfurt. 

If these fail to yield a result by lunchtime today, IG Metall will escalate the dispute with 24-hour strikes. 

“The outcome of talks remains uncertain,” Mr Hofmann said. 

Regional wage talks in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, which is taking the lead in this year’s national wage round, stalled this week, raising the prospect of nationwide strikes. 

Baden-Wuerttemberg is home to Mercedes-Benz maker, Daimler, and sports car brand, Porsche, as well as auto suppliers, Bosch and Mahle.

Emboldened by the fastest economic growth in six years and record-low unemployment, IG Metall is demanding a 6% pay rise for 3.9m metals and engineering workers across Germany. 

“Twenty-four hour strikes would, indeed, be painful,” a spokesman for BMW said, adding that extended walkouts, not only at the premium carmaker, but also at its suppliers, could disrupt production. 

Three hours of stoppages at BMW’s Munich factory, on Wednesday, resulted in 250 cars not being assembled, BMW said, adding it was working to make up the production shortfall.

Premium rival, Audi, said it, too, was trying to catch up, after around 700 vehicles were not assembled. This was as a result of two stoppages at its Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm factories this week. 

Daimler said it would similarly try to address production shortfall after any strikes. 

A big sticking point in the talks is a union demand that workers should have the right to reduce their weekly hours to 28, from 35, to care for children, elderly or sick relatives, and return to full-time employment after two years. 

This is IG Metall’s first major push for shorter hours, since workers staged seven weeks of strikes in 1984 to help push through a cut of the working week to 35 hours, from 40. 

Employers have so far offered a pay rise of 2%, plus a one-off, €200 payment and have rejected demands for a shorter working week, unless employers are allowed to temporarily increase hours, as well.

Reuters

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