German union IG Metall calls for strikes to secure 4% pay increase

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s largest trade union, IG Metall, on Monday called on workers in the iron and steel industry to stage so-called “warning strikes” to raise pressure on employers to agree to a 4% wage increase, reduced working hours and re-training to safeguard jobs.

FILE PHOTO: Joerg Hofmann leader of Germany's largest industrial union IG Metall speaks to delegates during the trade union congress in Nuremberg, Germany October 10, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

“There has been a V-shaped recovery during the crisis in the main industries since the summer break. This means orders recovered significantly by the end of the year,” IG Metall head Joerg Hofmann said.

Hofmann, speaking at a union event, said the outlook for the automobile industry had also improved over the past months.

“That’s why it is necessary to put the topics of job security, shaping the future and stabilising income on the agenda,” Hofmann said, adding that employers had a responsibility to do their part now by keeping purchasing power stable.

The German consumer price index is expected to jump by up to 3% over the course of this year which would reduce real wages if employers continued to reject any pay hikes.

Hofmann said employers were using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext for job cuts.

Employers and the labour union last year agreed to not raise wages and instead focus on safeguarding jobs during the crisis.

“We said let’s put in a moratorium and you will secure employment in return. But now, what we have to say is that we already have 120,000 fewer jobs in the sector,” Hofmann said.

In addition to the 4% pay hike, IG Metall wants to define a framework for future collective agreements at company level which should secure employment in the transition to electric mobility and digitisation through re-training.

IG Metall, which represents 2.2 million employees in the metal working and electrical sectors, often makes demands that set benchmarks for wage negotiations in those industries and beyond.

Labour union and employers will continue negotiations in the coming weeks. Hofmann said he hoped a wage deal could be reached before Easter in early April.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber. Editing by Jane Merriman