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German public-sector workers walk out to press pay demands

Last Updated Sep 22, 2020 at 2:46 am EDT

BERLIN — Public-service workers in Germany launched a campaign of short strikes on Tuesday to press their demand for a significant pay rise, with hospital and child care centre employees and drainage workers among those set to walk off the job in parts of the country.

The ver.di union’s main demand is a 4.8% increase, or a minimum of 150 euros ($177) per month, for some 2.3 million federal and local employees over the next year. Warning strikes are a common tactic in German labour negotiations and typically last from several hours to a day or two.

Negotiators for employers, who haven’t yet made an offer, are seeking a longer-term deal and have said the wage demands are too high with the German economy struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, which also is reducing the government’s tax revenues. The walkouts were called after the last round of wage negotiations failed to produce an agreement at the weekend.

Ver.di chairman Frank Werneke told ZDF television that the union is calling for warning strikes over the coming days “across the whole breadth” of the public sector.

“There is particularly great pressure, and high expectations, in hospitals — so there will be a focus there,” Werneke said. “There will be other focuses too. It is completely clear to us that strikes at day care centres are particularly sensitive and not particularly popular at the moment, and we will do that in a very measured way — that isn’t the focus of this strike movement at the moment.”

The next round of negotiations is scheduled for Oct. 23 and 24.

The Associated Press