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German Union Wants 8 Percent Raise

IG Metall, Germany's largest industrial union, demanded an 8 percent wage increase for 3.6 million workers, saying that they should share in manufacturing industry's recent strength.

BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's largest industrial union on Tuesday demanded an 8 percent wage increase for 3.6 million workers, saying it was a matter of "justice" that they should share in manufacturing industry's recent strength.

The IG Metall union argued that an 8 percent rise over the next 12 months is justified on the basis that, while companies' profits rose by 220 percent between 2004 and 2007, wages effectively increased by only 8.7 percent.

"When, if not now, is the right time for people to receive the recognition that they deserve for their great work performance?" asked union leader Berthold Huber. He promised that the union would pursue "more growth and more justice."

However, the president of the Gesamtmetall employers association argued that it makes no sense for the union to take the best period for industry over the past 10 years and use it to set wages for the years to come.

"Only half of their proposal is grounded in data and facts, the other half in emotions," Martin Kannegiesser was quoted as saying in an interview with the daily Stuttgarter Zeitung. "Our people say IG Metall isn't playing with a full deck."

Kannegiesser added that 60 percent of companies give employees bonuses during good economic times, and said German industrial workers are already the best paid in the world.

IG Metall represents about three million members in the electric, textile, wood, plastic, automobile, iron and steel industries, but any raise it negotiated would apply to everyone in the industry.

Union official Helga Schwitzer suggested that the union was prepared to strike to back its demands. "There is no scenario that IG Metall and its members in the companies are not prepared for," she said.

The union's current contract expires Oct. 31, and IG Metall has said warning strikes -- should its demands not be met -- could follow as early as Nov. 1.

Negotiations start on Oct. 2. Last year, the union demanded a 6.5 percent increase, but settled for 4.1 percent immediately and another 1.7 percent this year.

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