German Meteorologists Join Mass Strikes

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

BERLIN, Germany (AP) -- Meteorologists at Germany's national weather service and pollsters from the central statistics office joined teachers, bankers and sanitation workers in a wave of warning strikes across the public service sector on Thursday.

German canal workers hold a banner reading "We're getting sick of this!" as they protest for wage increases.

The walkouts started hours ahead of a fifth round of planned wage talks between union leaders and employer representatives in the eastern city of Potsdam.

The employer representatives said they did not plan to make a better offer.

However, Thomas Boehle, a leading negotiator for the employers, insisted they were willing to be flexible but that the union was asking more than they could afford.

"I can imagine that we will reach an agreement," Boehle told ARD state television. "We are willing to compromise."

The ver.di service workers' union has called for raises of 8 percent to 15.5 percent for Germany's 1.3 million public service workers, backdated to January 1.

The government has countered with an offer of 5 percent over two years, accompanied by a longer working week, but ver.di has rejected that.

Warning strikes generally last just a few hours and are intended to tell employers that if demands are not met a bigger strike is planned.

Hundreds of thousands of public service workers have temporarily walked off their jobs in schools, police forces, municipal offices and airports over the past weeks in an effort to win a stronger offer.

"The warning strikes could end swiftly, if the employers would make a reasonable offer," Michael Sommer, head of the German Federation of Labor Unions, told the Neue Presse daily.

Thursday's stoppages focused on the central and southernmost of Germany's 16 states, hitting the German Weather Service in Offenbach and the Federal Statistics office in Wiesbaden. Public transport workers and school teachers in Hesse, Baden-Wuertenburg and Bavaria also stayed off their jobs.

The nationwide labor dispute in the public service sector has also triggered other stoppages.

In Berlin, subway, tram and bus workers stayed off work for a second day on Thursday as part of a 10-day strike aimed at winning a pay increase of up to 12 percent for employees of the capital's transport system.

The pay disputes come amid concern in Germany over perceptions that wealth from the country's recent economic upswing is being distributed unfairly.

In a separate dispute that has bubbled for months, GDL, the union representing train drivers, has also threatened to launch an all-out strike against the nation's rail network on Monday unless national railway operator Deutsche Bahn signs a wage agreement by Friday.

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