The German engineering union IG Metall has started a series of short warning strikes in support of claims for a 5% pay increase and preserving work breaks. The first was at one of carmaker DaimlerChrysler’s plants.
Workers are particularly upset about plans to end toilet breaks for production line workers: One DaimlerChrysler employee said: “It’s unacceptable for us workers not to get a break after two hours. Already the speed of the production line has been increased and the number of workers has been cut – that’s just not on. It affects our health.”
IG Metall, which represents 3.4 million manufacturing workers in Germany, is warning the regional stoppages could escalate into national action. The union said that the 5% wage claim is justified because of surging profits at many German companies and that workers deserve a greater share in firms’ profitability.
The response from employers is that such a pay rise would force many firms to move jobs outside Germany. Mercedes, DaimlerChrysler’s luxury division, which recently announced 8,500 job losses, has already used that threat of moving production elsewhere to increase its employees working week above 35 hours.