Trains, buses grind to halt as strikes hit Germany

BERLIN, March 5 Mon Mar 5, 2012 5:21am EST

BERLIN, March 5 (Reuters) - Thousands of German public sector workers in three western states walked out on strike on Monday after demands for wage increases of 6.5 percent were blocked in talks last week.

Buses and trains were at a standstill in Frankfurt in the state of Hesse, causing travel disruption in Germany's financial capital. In Saarland, hundreds of daycare centres and banks were shut, while hospitals and nursing homes were also affected.

In Rhineland-Palatinate more than 2,000 public service workers have gone on strike and this figure could increase to 5,000 during the day, the service sector union ver.di said.

Years of wage restraint helped Europe's largest economy outpace its peers. After record levels of joblessness which peaked in 2005, labour market reforms boosted competitiveness and increased employment to the highest level in German history.

Strikers are demanding a wage rise of 6.5 percent, or at least 200 euros more pay per month, for around two million workers, ver.di said.

Employers dismissed the demands as unrealistic in pay negotiations last week, but did not produce an alternative offer. The discussions are set to resume on March 12.

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