Members of IG Metall, Germany’s biggest union, started a round of strike protests Jan. 8, part of pressing for a 6 percent wage increase, as negotiations begin for a new contract covering 3.9 million workers. The old contract expired Dec. 31.
Over the next few days some 160,000 workers at more than 80 companies staged brief walkouts and organized demonstrations and rallies. Affected companies include Volkswagen, Porsche, Mercedes Benz, Siemens, Airbus, Honeywell and Bombardier.
The union is also demanding workers have the option to cut their workweek in order to care for children and aging relatives.
The bosses have offered a 2 percent wage raise plus a one-off $240 bonus, but have so far rejected demands for workweek flexibility.
IG Metall has warned that the protest actions will expand if no progress is made in negotiations. “We have the tool of 24-hour warning strikes at our disposal, and of course we always have the option to ballot for open-ended industrial action,” union head Joerg Hofmann told Reuters Jan. 10.
Contract negotiations are coming up for a number of other unions, including for mine, chemical, postal and rail workers.
The strikes take place in the context of an economic uptick in Germany, where many bosses face labor shortages.