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Monday, 3 June, 2002, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
German workers to vote on strike
IG Metall worker on strike
IG Metall workers secured a 4% pay deal

Up to a million German building workers are to be balloted on strike action after the breakdown of industry-wide pay talks.

It is the latest in a series of pay disputes in Germany launched in defiance of employers' pleas for wage moderation.


Arguably, the strikes are happening just when the German economy can least afford them

An earlier strike by engineering workers, which resulted in a 4% pay deal, appears to have emboldened workers in other sectors.

Economists warn the result may be job losses at many companies which are still struggling out of recession.

The construction workers union - IG Bau - is confident its members will back industrial action.

The ballot was called after the breakdown of pay talks at the weekend.

If supported, it will be the first strike in the German construction industry for 50 years.

Summer of discontent

The dispute is the latest outbreak of militancy among German workers which is threatening to develop into a summer of industrial disruption.

Last week, print workers won a 3.4% rise after threatening to disrupt newspaper production during the football World Cup.

And on Tuesday, postal workers will start a campaign of limited stoppages in support of a 6.5% wage rise.

Arguably, the strikes are happening just when the German economy can least afford them, with the country only slowly emerging from a six-month long recession.

Sector in ruins

In the building industry, more than 100,000 jobs were lost last year and there is no prospect of an upturn this year, which has already seen Germany's second biggest construction company go bust.

After a prolonged period of economic stagnation, German workers are increasingly sceptical of government and employers' arguments that wage moderation is the key to recovery.

In May, the powerful engineering union, IG Metall, became the first to ride roughshod over warnings that inflation-busting pay deals would destroy jobs.

Their successful campaign, which ended in a 4% pay deal, has almost certainly emboldened other groups of workers.

Industrial disputes are relatively rare in Germany, and much rarer than in its biggest neighbour, France.

For the government, which faces national elections in September, the wave of industrial discontent risks undermining its support both among unions and employers.


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