BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – A mass strike in Germany was due to start early on Monday, paralyzing mass transit and airports in one of the biggest strikes in decades as Europe’s largest economy grapples with soaring rates of coronavirus. inflation.
In the hours leading up to the strike, both sides went too far, with union bosses warning that large wage increases were “a matter of survival” for the demands of thousands of workers and management, and the resulting measure “utterly excessive”.
The strikes, which were due to start mainly shortly after midnight and affect services throughout the day Monday, are the latest in months of industrial action to hit major European economies as rising food and energy prices hit living standards.
Germany, which was heavily dependent on Russia for gas before the war in Ukraine, has been hit hard by high inflation rates as it seeks new energy sources, as inflation rates have exceeded the eurozone average in recent months.
German consumer prices rose more-than-expected in February – up 9.3% from a year earlier – suggesting that stubborn cost pressures the ECB has been trying to tame with a series of rate hikes will not be let down.
It was a painful adjustment for millions of workers across the country as the costs of everything from butter to rents rose after years of more or less stable prices.
“It’s a matter of survival for thousands of employees to get a big wage increase,” Frank Wernke, head of the Verdi trade union, told Bild am Sonntag.
France has also faced a series of strikes and protests since January, with anger mounting over the government’s attempt to raise the two-year state retirement age to 64.
But officials in Germany have made it clear that their battle is only about pay.
Verdi’s union negotiates on behalf of about 2.5 million employees in the public sector, including public transportation and airports. The rail and transport union EVG is negotiating for the 230,000 employees of Deutsche Bahn (DBN.UL) rail and bus companies.
Verdi is asking for a 10.5% wage increase, which would see wages increased 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 “utterly excessive, baseless and unnecessary”.
Employers also warn that higher wages for transport workers will result in higher prices and taxes to make up the difference.
($1 = 0.9295 euros)
Additional reporting by Tom Sims and Klaus Lauer. Editing by David Holmes
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