German Industrial Workers Strike
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BERLIN (AP) _ More than 100,000 German industrial workers walked off their jobs Thursday to underscore pay demands and a threat by the powerful IG Metall union to call for a full-fledged strike if employers don’t improve their offer.
The union, which represents workers in industries such as automaking and electronics, has stepped up pressure this week in a contract dispute that could complicate Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s re-election campaign.
Warning strikes, generally lasting a few hours, focused Thursday on North Rhine-Westphalia, western Germany’s industrial heartland, and the rich southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg. Strikers included 13,000 workers at Ford Motor Co.’s main German plant in Cologne.
Overall, some 250 plants were hit by the warning strikes, union officials said. Another wave was planned for next week.
IG Metall is demanding 6.5 percent more pay in the next one-year contract. Employers have offered 2 percent.
IG Metall chief Klaus Zwickel renewed his threat Thursday to call for a strike vote among the union’s members.
``Either we see the light at the end of the tunnel in the next few days, or we will declare the negotiations a failure by the end of April and launch a vote,″ he said.
Schroeder has appealed to unions to moderate their wage demands this year because of Germany’s sluggish economy. His challenger, conservative Bavarian governor Edmund Stoiber, is focusing his campaign attacks heavily on Schroeder’s economic record.