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'Little chance' of German strike deal

DDP/The Local · 6 Mar 2008, 13:30

Published: 06 Mar 2008 13:30 GMT+01:00

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As service worker strikes continue across Germany, leader of negotiations for Verdi, Achim Meerkamp, said he sees little chance for a solution in the fifth round of negotiations with employers set to begin on Thursday and Friday. Meanwhile new protests have been announced on the second day of labour union actions demanding higher wages to accommodate the rising costs of living in the country.

"In the fifth round of negotiations we will try everything again," Meerkamp told German daily Rheinischen Post. "But I will say openly that I don't have a good feeling that we'll reach an agreement."

Meerkamp encouraged the employers to make concessions during the upcoming negotiations. "So far we are only striking in certain branches and regions," he told the paper. "But that can change. If we don't come to an agreement, we could strike indefinitely across the board."

Newly announced strikes added to Wednesday's chaos, when airport worker warning strikes across the country caused German airline Lufthansa to cancel 300 flights, and Berlin was paralyzed by the public transport strike and untimely snow. The Berlin public transportation strike continues, while transport workers in Kassel, Frankfurt and Offenbach left trains and buses silent early Thursday morning for a warning strike too, Verdi said. The Berlin transport strike in Berlin could last until at least March 14 if unions and employers don't reach an agreement. Refuse collectors in Berlin also stopped work.

Wednesday's strikes focused on the populous North Rhine-Westphalia. Thursday's action was centred on the southern states of Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Saarland, as well as capital Berlin.

In the German state of Hesse, some 15,000 day care workers, trash collectors, and public bank employees are striking. Electric and water service workers are striking in north and east Hesse.

In Bavaria, about 5,000 hospital, day care, and other service workers will strike Thursday.

In the state of Baden-Württemberg, Verdi said 20,000 public sector workers will participate in the protest.

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Verdi supports more than 1.3 million workers in the public sector, and is fighting to get an 8 percent increase in salary or an additional €200 ($300) per month. Authorities have proposed a five percent increase over two years, along with an extension of the work week from 38.5 hours to 40 hours.

Another strike in a long-running dispute between German train driver's union GDL and state-owned train system Deutsche Bahn could be staged next week too, paralyzing the national train system. GDL has staged a series of warning strikes since summer, but is frustrated that agreements the union made with Deutsche Bahn afterwards have yet to be finalized.

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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