January 8, 2018 / 9:35 AM / a year ago

German industrial workers stage strikes in pay dispute

DUESSELDORF, Jan 8 (Reuters) - German industrial workers staged strikes at companies across the metals and engineering sectors on Monday as part of a campaign by union IG Metall for higher pay.

Night shift workers at automotive supplier Kirchhoff in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia walked out on Monday, as did employees of farming machinery maker Claas, according to the union.

“The employers provoked these warning strikes with their behaviour at the negotiating table,” Knut Giesler, head of IG Metall in North Rhine-Westphalia, said.

The country’s biggest union is demanding a 6 percent wage rise this year for about 3.9 million workers.

Employers have dismissed the pay claim as excessive and so far offered a 2 percent increase plus a 200 euro ($241) one-off payment in the first quarter.

The union is also demanding a shorter working week.

In Berlin, around 400 workers at elevator maker OTIS are expected to walk out on Monday morning, and other companies are to follow suit later in the day, IG Metall said.

The dispute comes against the backdrop of an economic upswing in Germany that pushed the country’s unemployment rate down to a record low in December.

Talks between unions and employers’ associations have been set for Jan. 11 for workers in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, home to Volkswagen’s Porsche, Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler and automotive suppliers including Bosch .

In Bavaria, where major companies such as premium carmaker BMW and engineering group Siemens are based, negotiations will resume on Jan. 15. The populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to companies such as Thyssenkrupp, is to follow on Jan. 18.

$1 = 0.8299 euros Reporting by Matthias Inverardi; Additional reporting by Jan Schwartz; Writing by Maria Sheahan. Editing by Jane Merriman

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