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Union warns of strikes in public sector

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Union warns of strikes in public sector
Municipal street cleaners in Leipzig on strike last March. Photo: DPA
10:45 CET+01:00
Public sector strikes could hit Germany in 2009 if wage talks next month on behalf of 800,000 workers fail to produce a satisfactory outcome, the head one of the main trade unions warned on Tuesday.

"I fail to understand how the state, while providing billions to rescue the economy, wants to leave its own workers out in the rain," Peter Heesen, head of the DBB union, told the Berliner Zeitung daily.

Heesen said the stoppages could hit anywhere - from hospitals to clearing snow off roads to the tax authorities - and that if the employers' initial offer was too low, then warning strikes could take place.

The DBB and fellow union Verdi will press for an eight percent pay hike in talks starting on January 19 or a minimum increase of €200 ($285), the paper said.

In November, a strike by 3.6 million metal and electronics sector workers that had threatened to deal a blow to Germany's ailing economy was narrowly averted after unions and employees agreed a 4.2-percent wage increase.

The accord, struck after 23 hours of hard bargaining, followed nationwide warning strikes since October 31 in which more than 500,000 workers took part. Germany's powerful unions have been criticised for seeking large wage increases at a time when Europe's largest economy is in recession and firms are struggling to stay afloat in the face of weak demand and scarce credit.

But the DBB's Heesen rejected this, saying that after three years of no increases, a decent wage hike would put cash in people's pockets and boost consumer spending.

"That will only work if workers get more money. That applies to the public sector too," Heesen said.

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