FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Germany's largest industrial union is poised to launch brief strikes this weekend in the nation's struggling automobile sector as IG Metall and employers spar over wage increases.
The union's branch in the southern state of Bavaria on Friday rejected a 2.9 percent wage increase over the next 12 months. Employers argued that the credit crunch and financial meltdown is making bigger offers unrealistic.
IG Metall is seeking an 8 percent increase, arguing it is justified on the basis of a 220 percent increase in companies' profits between 2004-2007 -- a time when wages effectively increased by only 8.7 percent.
"What employers have offered today ... is not an offer, but an invitation to a labor dispute," said Werner Neugebauer, who heads IG Metall's Bavarian branch.
The union has called on some 4,000 workers at Audi AG's plant in Ingolstadt to walk off their midnight shifts early Saturday.
IG Metall's leader Berthold Huber said Thursday that employers had to come up with an offer "worthy of discussion" to prevent the union's 3.6 million members from launching a wave of nationwide short-term strikes.
In Germany, most contracts are negotiated between the union and regional employer associations representing entire sectors, not company by company.
There is concern that any major wage hikes could prompt a threat to inflation, which is at 3.6 percent in the euro zone, and could prompt the European Central Bank to back off likely rate cuts, despite evidence of a looming recession.
The 2.9 percent offer was also made by employers in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuertemberg, home to automakers Daimler AG and Porsche SE.
IG Metall's regional branch rejected that offer, too.