More than 10,000 Deutsche Telekom employees are on strike in protest against cost cuts. It is the first major industrial dispute at Europe’s biggest telecommunications company since it was privatised more than a decade ago.
The unions are angry at plans to move 50,000 workers in the fixed-line division into subsidiaries where they will earn less.
Strike leader Werner Bennert said: “It was time for us to strike. So far, everything has been dealt with at the negotiating table. But people are scared and worried about what Telekom is planning to do with us.”
Five rounds of talks between management and unions have failed to produce an agreement and Chief Executive, Rene Obermann, has called on union leaders to resume negotiations: “We believe this strike isn’t helping anyone. It won’t create any jobs. It’s harming everyone. We have made a good offer that gives long term prospects to a lot of people in this company.”
Deutsche Telekom also wants to increase the work week to at least 38 hours from 34 hours. This week the company announced earnings in the first three months of this year – 459 million euros – were less than half those in the same period last year and it lost nearly 600,000 fixed line customers in the first quarter.