German steel workers, employers reach wage deal

RATINGEN, Germany, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Germany’s steel trade union and employers said on Wednesday they had reached agreement on a 5.2 percent pay increase for workers in the northwest of the country, preventing large strikes in the sector.

Under the deal, reached after 10 hours of talks, some 85,000 workers in the northwest will receive the rise from March, as well as a one-off payment of 200 euros ($294.5) in February.

“It’s the best result in 15 years,” said Oliver Burkhard, from industrial union IG Metall.

The deal has a duration of 13 months. IG Metall had initially demanded an 8 percent pay rise for the steel workers, saying staff deserved a share of the recent success of firms such as ThyssenKrupp and Salzgitter.

Employers had first offered 3.5 percent, with a contract duration of at least 16 months.

“We agreed to this wage deal because of the concrete threat of strikes,” said Helmut Koch, who negotiated for employers.

German steel workers had already staged temporary stoppages in support of the pay demands, and union officials had said if no deal was reached, IG Metall would aim to stage full-scale strikes in Germany from late February or early March.

The European Central Bank has repeatedly urged unions to moderate their pay demands, to avoid fuelling inflation.

In the last two years, Germany has enjoyed its strongest burst of economic activity since reunification in 1990 and workers want a greater share of the success after years of wage moderation that helped boost firms’ profitability. (Reporting by Anneli Palmen, Writing by Kerstin Gehmlich; Editing by Michael Winfrey)