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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 19:35 GMT 20:35 UK
German papers assess IG Metall case
Picket line at Porsche plant in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen
It is Germany's first large-scale strike in seven years

As Germany faces a wave of strikes by the powerful IG Metall engineering union, the country's papers weigh up arguments on both sides and speculate on the chances of resolving the conflict.

Klaus Zwickel, head of German union IG Metall
Mr Zwickel's men are phasing strikes across manufacturing

The Berliner Zeitung says the head of IG-Metall, Klaus Zwickel, described the dispute as "entirely unpredictable", while Michael Rogowski, president of the employers confederation, called the union's demands "madness".

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in turn declared the strike a legitimate weapon - but he hopes it will be over soon, the paper says.

Where it hurts

The paper comments that the strike is "unlikely to be short, as Chancellor Schroeder still hopes it will be". It adds that the union's "flexible tactics" of phased strikes throughout the industry is in itself a complicating factor.


The outcome and effects of the strike have become unpredictable

Berliner Zeitung

"This keeps the pressure on the companies within certain bounds, but at the same time it leaves open the way to more demands," Berliner Zeitung says.

"Thus the outcome and effects of the strike have become unpredictable."

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says that the rolling "Flexi-Strike" concept is intended to soften the impact, in order not to give employers an excuse to shut plants down.

The influential weekly Die Zeit also highlights the union's hit-and-run tactics.

"Zwickel's men plan to bring numerous plants briefly to a standstill," the paper says, adding that the union's aim is to "strike where it really hurts".

In a separate article, the paper reminds its readers that whatever the outcome it will make little difference to the country's unemployed.


Both the union and the employers have shown themselves to be ready for a fight

Die Tageszeitung

"Zero per cent or 10? What's the difference!", the paper says. "No job, no cash, no voice: The unemployed are not involved - the wage dispute is passing them by."

Etiquette

Die Tageszeitung comments that attitudes have hardened "on all fronts". "Both the union and the employers have shown themselves to be ready for a fight," the paper says.

The same paper offers some advice in "strike etiquette" for both sides. Above all, it says, "do not be shy of raising yet again the decades-old arguments for, or against, a strike".

Workers are thus advised to argue that every extra cent in the pocket fuels the economy, while employers should point to the fact that such industrial action destroys jobs.

Employers should never let slip an opportunity to explain to journalists the "dramatic situation" in their industry. And above all: "Never express yourself in an overtly aggressive way about the union."

Hara-kiri


The wage demand is out of all proportion, .... And at the end of the day the deal will surely not have a six before the decimal point

Opel chief Carl-Peter Forster

According to Martin Kannegiesser, the head of Gesamtmetall - the organisation which represents engineering employers nationally - the union's demand for at least 4% means it is committing "wage and political hara-kiri," the business daily Handelsblatt reports.

This view is echoed by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which comments that by still insisting on a settlement of over 6%, some top union officials are embarking on a "dangerous tactic".

However the paper is also relieved that the action is at last under way. "At last the strike has begun. At last - meaning that the talks between the sides can now be resumed."

In an article headlined "The Porsche Proletariat", Der Tagesspiegel concedes that "the workers are full of anger". But it also carries an interview with Opel chief Carl-Peter Forster, who is in no doubt as to the rights and wrongs of the dispute.

"The wage demand is out of all proportion, even if the union based its calculations on plants which are doing better than Opel. And at the end of the day the deal will surely not have a six before the decimal point," he says.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

26 Apr 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Germany
06 May 02 | Business
Major strike hits Germany
02 May 02 | Business
Strikes return to Germany
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