German public sector strike grows

German public sector workers expanded their week-old strike to most of the country on Monday in an escalating dispute over plans to make them work longer hours.

Submitted by Steven. on February 13, 2006

Public workers in nine of Germany's 16 states were stopped work on Monday, compared to only two last week, making it the biggest stoppage in public services for 14 years.

The Ver.di labor union, the country's biggest, is protesting against plans to make some public employees work 40 hours a week compared to the current 38.5 hours with no extra compensation.

The strike is affecting services at public hospitals, as well as rubbish collection and child care. Unfortunately, not all workers are striking simultaneously, thus limiting the disruption.

Ver.di chief Frank Bsirske complained in an interview in Monday's Bild newspaper that the extra hours amounted to two extra weeks of work a year and that employers would use longer hours to cut the number of workers.

Government negotiators have so far rejected calls from some politicians for a pay increase to compensate public workers for the longer hours.

The German media has launched an all-out assault on the strikers, while the Financial Times Deutschland admits that workers' suspicions that behind the policy of increasing working hours and cost cutting is the desire to eliminate jobs are very plausible.

Unions state the strikes would go on "until the employers see that they cannot simply order people to work longer."

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