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German unions call strikes in public-sector pay talks

Source: Reuters - Thu, 13 Mar 2014 19:24 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds calls for strike after first round of talks)

BERLIN, March 13 (Reuters) - German trade unions have announced warning strikes in coming days after a first round of public sector pay talks failed to produce any signs that a deal was feasible, Verdi union leader Frank Bsirske said on Thursday.

The government accepted there would be a pay increase but was unwilling to meet the demand by Verdi and the dbb trade unions for a total pay rise of 6.7 percent and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere described it as "exorbitant".

Verdi said it would launch strikes in many regions and sectors, including public administration, hospitals, garbage collection, local transport and day-care centres.

"An approach between the demands of employees and employers cannot be foreseen at the present. The positions are too far apart," Bsirske said after the talks started on Thursday.

The trade unions want pay rises of 3.5 percent and an extra 100 euros ($140) per month for some 2.1 million federal and municipal public-sector workers. That would amount to a total increase of 6.7 percent, they say.

"There will be a wage rise, but the sky is not the limit," de Maiziere told public broadcaster ARD.

His ministry estimates the proposed increase would cost 8 billion euros. He also disagreed with union arguments that wage rises for civil servants had lagged those of private sector workers.

After a decade of wage restraint before 2011, Germany came under heavy pressure during the euro zone debt crisis to let pay rise, to encourage consumers to spend more.

Unions have negotiated inflation-busting hikes in wages over the past few years, including public-sector pay.

Unions and employers will also haggle over how long the wage agreements will last. Unions want them to expire after one year, but recent agreements have run for two. Germany's regional civil servants last year won a 5.6 percent increase over 24 months. ($1 = 0.7192 Euros) (Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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