German public sector hit by second day of strikes

Union calls for six per cent raises, governments reject offer

BERLIN (Reuters) — Trade unions in Germany piled more pressure onto public sector employers with a second day of nation-wide wage strikes on Wednesday as thousands of workers staged walkouts at hospitals, childcare centres and waste depots.

No flights were affected by Wednesday's action — a day after walkouts caused widespread disruption to air travel — including the cancellation of hundreds of flights which left thousands of passengers stranded.

German union Verdi wants a six per cent pay raise for 2.3 million public sector employees, but the federal government and municipalities have rejected the demand as too high. The next round of negotiations is due April 15.

The southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg were among the worst hit on Wednesday but walkouts and demonstrations also affected other regions, including Hessen, Saarland, Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state.

The president of the Bavarian civil servants' union, Rolf Habermann, told Reuters on Wednesday that it was now time for employers to make an offer that would reflect the strength of Germany's economic upswing.

"There have been enough words exchanged, the rituals have been maxed out," Habermann said.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, is in solid shape, with buoyant tax revenues and a record budget surplus. Falling unemployment, inflation-busting pay rises and low borrowing costs are fueling a consumer-led upswing.

The European Central Bank is keeping a close eye on the German wage negotiations for any sign that wage growth is picking up, potentially lifting inflation and allowing the ECB to start winding down its massive stimulus program.

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