BERLIN/FRANKFURT, March 27 (Reuters) – A general strike in Germany is set to begin early on Monday, crippling mass transport and airports in one of the biggest walkouts in decades as Europe’s biggest economy flows from with rising inflation.
In the hours leading up to the strike, both sides were cautious, with union bosses warning that the huge pay rise was a “matter of safety” for the thousands of workers and management calling in the demands and the resulting action is “absolutely excessive”.
The strikes, which are mainly scheduled to start after midnight and affect services throughout Monday, are the latest in months of industrial action to hit major European economies as higher prices food and energy decreases the standard of living.
Germany, heavily dependent on Russia for gas before the war in Ukraine, has been particularly hard hit by higher inflation as it scrambles for new energy sources, with inflation rates above average of the euro-area in recent months.
German consumer prices rose more than expected in February – up 9.3% from a year earlier – pointing to no let-up in stubborn cost pressures that the European Central Bank is trying to tame. a series of interest-rate increases.
It’s a painful adjustment for millions of workers across the country as the costs of everything from butter to rent soar after years of relatively stable prices.
“It is a matter of safety for many thousands of employees to get a big pay rise,” Frank Werneke, head of the Verdi trade union, told Bild am Sonntag.
France has also faced a series of strikes and protests since January as anger rose over the government’s attempt to raise the state pension age by two years to 64.
But officials in Germany made it clear that their fight was only about pay.
The Verdi union negotiates on behalf of around 2.5 million employees in the public sector, including in public transport and at airports. Railway and transport union EVG is negotiating for around 230,000 employees at railway operator Deutsche Bahn ( DBN.UL ) and bus companies.
Verdi is asking for a 10.5% wage increase, which would see wages rise by at least 500 euros ($538) per month, while EVG is asking for a 12% increase or at least 650 euros per month.
Deutsche Bahn said on Sunday that the strike was “totally excessive, unfounded and unnecessary”.
Employers also warned that higher wages for transportation workers would result in higher fares and taxes to make up the difference.
($1 = 0.9295 euros)
Reporting by Tom Sims and Klaus Lauer; Editing by David Holmes
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