German industrial labor starts 24-hour strikes in row over pay, working hours

Members of German industrial trade union IG Metall take part in a 24-hour strike at VAC (VACUUMSCHMELZE) plant in Hanau. Around 260 companies are expected to be hit by walkouts in support of IG Metall’s demands from Wednesday to Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 31 January 2018
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German industrial labor starts 24-hour strikes in row over pay, working hours

FRANKFURT: Industrial workers in Germany held the first of a series of planned 24-hour strikes over pay and working hours on Wednesday, affecting companies including Volkswagen’s truck maker MAN and automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen.
Powerful German union IG Metall has called for full-day walkouts through Friday, firing a last warning shot before it ballots for extended industrial action that could be crippling to companies reliant on a well-oiled supply chain of car parts and other components.
“This has become necessary because the employers are moving sideways and have thrown into question compromises that had already been agreed,” IG Metall’s head Joerg Hofmann told daily Handelsblatt.
Across Germany, around 260 companies are expected to be hit by walkouts in support of IG Metall’s demands from Wednesday to Friday. At automotive supplier Robert Bosch in Stuttgart workers are due to go on strike later on Wednesday, to be followed by Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler and sportscar firm Porsche on Friday.
Emboldened by the fastest economic growth in six years and record low unemployment, the union is demanding an 8 percent pay rise over 27 months for 3.9 million metals and engineering workers across Europe’s largest economy.
The union has also asked for workers to be given the right to reduce their weekly hours to 28 from 35 to care for children, elderly or sick relatives, and return to full time after two years.
“I switched from full-time to part-time work because of my children and now I don’t have the opportunity to return to full-time,” Souad Benchakra, a worker at Geberit, a German maker of toilet bowls and faucets, told Reuters TV when strikes there began during the night.
This is IG Metall’s first major push for a change in hours since workers staged seven weeks of strikes in 1984 to help secure a cut of the working week to 35 hours from 40 hours.
Employers have offered a 6.8 percent wage increase but rejected the demand for shorter hours unless they can also increase workers’ hours when necessary.
Workers at printing press maker Heidelberger Druckmaschinen in Heidelberg are among those downing their tools on Wednesday, as are staff at Kion’s Still brand of forklift trucks in Hamburg and at lighting company Zumtobel in Lemgo.
Both the union and the employers have left the door open to resuming talks after the planned strikes end on Friday but each said they demanded more willingness to make concessions.
Employers in Bavaria said they had filed a legal challenge to the walkouts on Wednesday, demanding that workers return to work and the union pay damages. Other regional associations have said they will do the same.
“We still want a compromise. Causing such high damage to companies and the economy with full-day strikes is counter-productive and irresponsible,” Bertram Brossardt, head of the Bavarian employers’ group, said in a statement.
The DIW economic institute estimates that the strikes could cost the affected companies a total of €62 million a day in lost revenues, assuming that around 50,000 workers, or on average 200 per company, stop working for one day each.


Air Berlin’s administrator sues Etihad for up to €2 billion

Updated 1 min 45 sec ago
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Air Berlin’s administrator sues Etihad for up to €2 billion

  • Carrier has until end of January to respond to claims
  • Etihad owned a 29 percent stake in Air Berlin

LONDON: The administrator of German airline Air Berlin is suing Abu Dhabi-based Etihad for up to €2 billion in damages, a Berlin court heard on Friday.
The administrator alleges that the Abu Dhabi airline did not meet its financial obligations to Air Berlin, in which it was the majority shareholder.
“The claims are for payment of $500 million and the establishment that the defendant is obliged to pay further damages. The Chamber has provisionally set the amount in dispute at up to €2 billion,” the court said in a statement, Reuters reported.
Etihad did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Arab News.
The carrier has until the end of January to respond to the claims, according to the court.
Etihad owned a 29 percent stake in Air Berlin as part of its so-called “equity alliance” strategy.
Etihad told Air Berlin in April 2017 that it would provide funding to the German budget carrier for the next 18 months.
However the Abu Dhabi-based airline later said it would no longer provide funding as Air Berlin’s business had deteriorated at an unprecedented pace.
The administrator claims this sealed the fate of the German airline as its fundling lifeline was cut.
Unlike regional rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways, Etihad grew its business through a strategy of taking stakes in often struggling regional carriers, some of which were also heavily unionized. The carrier described such deals as “equity alliances” and they came to define the tenure of former chief executive James Hogan.
However the strategy ran into serious problems after it was forced to absorb massive losses from its investment in Air Berlin, Alitalia and other carriers.
But the airline is now reviewing that strategy after being forced to absorb huge losses from its investments in carriers such as Alitalia and Airberlin.
Like its regional rivals, the Abu Dhabi carrier has cut jobs over the last two years.