Bavarian Metal Workers Approve Strike In Industrial Heartland
BONN, Germany (AP) _ More than 100,000 metal and electronics workers in Bavaria voted Wednesday to strike this week, prompting worries of a crippling national walkout.
The strike by 166,000 workers will begin Friday at 628 companies in Bavaria, one of Germany’s largest industrial states, and union officials say it could spread nationwide.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s Cabinet has warned that Germany’s economic recovery is too fragile to weather a prolonged and widespread strike.
Other IG Metall regional branches staged a seven-week walkout in 1984, but this would be the first for Bavaria since 1954.
Leaders of IG Metall, which represents 3.5 million workers, decided to hold a strike vote after employers refused to put forward a concrete wage offer while asking workers for greater flexibility so companies could cut costs.
The union is demanding a 6 percent wage increase and resisting employers’ calls to scrap an agreement that would put a 35-hour week into effect on Oct. 1.
Werner Neugebauer, leader of the Bavarian branch of the powerful IG Metall labor federation, rejected employers’ appeals to return to the bargaining table.
``The employers can stuff their proposals and ideas,″ Neugebauer told applauding union members in Munich.
Employers are threatening to retaliate by locking out workers at other factories, where production might be affected by lack of supplies from strike-hit Bavarian companies.
Neugebauer warned that this could trigger walkouts by IG Metall members across Germany.
Representing 3.5 million workers, 3 million of whom are members, IG Metall is Germany’s largest labor federation.
The German White Collar Workers’ Union also planned to go on strike in Bavaria after 82 percent of 1,737 members at 10 selected companies voted for a work stoppage, which could come Friday, union leaders said. The strike would involve white collar workers at companies that IG Metall also represents.
Business leaders expressed concern at the effect of the walkout.
The German Chamber of Commerce Wednesday said a strike could harm the economy if it lasts a long time, especially if it leads to wage contracts that are too high for companies to afford.
Franz Schoser, the chamber’s director, said Germany’s economy continues to grow after a long recession but the recovery is a fragile one.
``The construction industry is seeing dark clouds. Consumer-oriented businesses are standing in the rain,″ Schoser told journalists.
``Businesses that are slowly on an upswing, following the country’s economic recession, need all their strength to be competitive on the international market,″ Volker Fasbender, deputy chief of the Metal and Electric Business Association, told Associated Press Television News. ``A strike on top of that will make it difficult to cope.
``The consequences will be that they lose competitively, foreign countries take the orders away and jobs in Germany become threatened,″ Fasbender said.
Some 88.4 percent of the union’s 166,000-member Bavarian voted for the walkout.
Last week, the union said a walkout would target small and medium-sized tool-making companies.