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Striking Germans Resume Pay Talks

June 24, 2002

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BERLIN (AP) _ Germany’s construction workers union resumed wage talks with employers Monday even as members extended a week-old strike that has raised fears of further damage to an already struggling industry.

The IG BAU union said some 30,000 workers _ about 10,000 more than last Friday _ were now on strike at more than 2,400 sites across the country.

Meanwhile, it said its representatives were meeting in the western city of Wiesbaden with employers to restart negotiations that broke down June 1 after a failed arbitration attempt. IG BAU launched its strikes last Monday.

``We will extend the industrial action more each day until an offer from the employers in on the table that can be a basis for negotiations,″ union strike leader Dietmar Schaefers said.

Economists say the strike, although it involves only a minority of construction workers in Germany, could deal another blow to an industry that has shrunk by around 20 percent since 1995, dragging down the wider German economy.

``I am sure we can reach an agreement with which all construction workers can live,″ the employers chief negotiator, Thomas Bauer, told the Bild daily newspaper.

The strike is one of several labor disputes in Germany this year, after years of relative calm. Reasons for the more combative climate include unions’ desire to make up for moderate increases in the past.

Unions also appear to be inspired by the 4.0 percent increase for the coming year won by the IG Metall factory workers union after 10 days of strikes in May.

IG BAU is seeking a 4.5 percent annual pay increase and wants wages in poorer eastern Germany brought up to the level of those in the west.

A construction worker in western Germany makes an average hourly base wage of 13.45 euros ($12.64), while in the formerly communist east the average hourly wage is 9.81 euros ($9.22).

Employers have offered increases of 3 percent for the period from September 2002 until March 2003 and of 2.1 percent for the following 12 months.

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