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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 20:31 GMT
Germany's striking doctors march
By Ray Furlong
BBC News, Hanover

German doctors on strike
German doctors have carried out a series of staggered strikes and marches
Doctors from state-run hospitals in Germany have held a demonstration in Hanover continuing a strike they began last week.

About 20,000 doctors have been holding staggered strikes at various locations across the country, calling for better pay conditions.

They say cuts over the last 10 years have made their position unbearable

The German authorities have said they cannot meet the conditions and have branded the strikes irresponsible.

"We need to finally get a respectable income," doctors' union chief Frank Montgomery told about 5,000 doctors in Hanover.

A mass of white coats, they had marched through the city in support of their demands.

Germany has a high standard of public health care. But Mr Montgomery said this was now at stake.

"Well, the standards of health care are very high and we want to maintain them and you can only maintain high standards if you have qualified doctors, if you have well-paid doctors, if you have motivated doctors and if your doctors are not over-tired," he said.

Public sector woe

About 20,000 doctors have now been on strike since last Tuesday, taking it in turns to hold stoppages in different areas of the country.

But the German authorities point to budgetary constraints, arguing the union's demands are unrealistic.

The strike comes amid a wider dispute in the public sector, with nurses, rubbish collectors and road maintenance workers on strike for the last seven weeks.

Workers in the country's massive engineering sector have also threatened to strike if they do not get an acceptable wage offer by Easter.

The disputes are a reminder that despite the popularity of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany's economic problems remain.

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