Factory workers are on strike, thousands of them, and they have some eye-opening demands. According to the Associated Press, the workers are a part of the IG Metall union, which called for short-term "warning strikes" to put pressure on employers.
Yesterday, more than 76,000 workers took part in the strikes, up from the 15,000 who went on strike Monday. These micro-strikes, taking place at companies like Porsche and John Deere Europe, normally last several hours and are a common negotiating tactic in the country.
The union, which represents 3.9 million workers, wants employers to boost wages across the board by six percent. Right now, employers have a two-percent raise on the table. According to the union, a two-percent increase would cover inflation, but it believes that the workers deserve an additional four percent as a share of the business's "economic success and increased prosperity." The strikes were triggered by the release of new figures that showed the strength of Europe's biggest economy.
The union is also fighting for the ability for workers to work 28-hour work weeks. Employees now work 35-hour work weeks, but the union wants employees to be able to go down to a 28-hour work week for up to two years with a guarantee that they can return to full-time afterwards. The union says the move will help improve employee work/life balance, especially when raising children, or caring for sick or elderly relatives.
The employers simply want the ability to negotiate with each employee to see if he/she will agree to work more hours over the two-year period if factory production is ever threatened.
The strike currently affects workers in Southern Germany as they prepare for labor negotiations. Once the terms are agreed upon, they will likely be applied nationwide.
According to a Reuters report, the warning strikes could lead to larger walkouts that would bring hundreds of companies to a halt.
In 1984, workers went on strike for seven weeks, which eventually lead to Germany's 35-hour work week.
The prospect of a 28-hour work week has elicited various responses from workers in the United States, such as "28 HOURS IS WHAT I DO IN 2 DAYS OF WORK. GERMANY IS IN TROUBLE!!!!!!"
A bit of a difference in the American and German work/life balances.
This is IEN Now with David Mantey.