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New German Super-Union Planned

March 19, 2001

BERLIN (AP) _ Union members have endorsed establishment of Germany’s largest union, a 3 million member body that could give service workers a stronger voice in talks with employers and the government.

Five unions voted massively Friday and Saturday in favor of dissolving their organizations and merging to form the new union which would be called Ver.di _ which stands for Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft, or United Services Union.

Ver.di will represent service workers from white-collar civil servants to postal workers and eclipse IG Metall, the industrial union that is now Germany’s largest with 2.7 million members.

Frank Bsirske, who is expected to be elected head of the new labor bloc Tuesday at a labor congress, said he would begin with a campaign to defend civilian jobs threatened by cost-cutting in the German military.

As many as 60,000 jobs were at risk, he told Berlin’s F.A.Z. radio.

Economists caution that signs of unions flexing their muscles in the continent’s biggest economy could alarm the European Central Bank. Recent threats of tough wage talks next year could help dissuade the ECB from lowering interest rates and lifting the economy.

Ver.di will take over legal responsibility for wage talks from its five founding unions in the summer.

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