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Nearly a million German construction workers to strike

Night work under way on a German road. The construction industry accounts for about 6% of Germany’s GDP (Derejeb/Dreamstime)
Some 930,000 German construction workers are to go on their first nationwide strike since 2002 after employers rejected a deal on Friday.

The formula had been suggested by independent mediators and was accepted by the IG Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt union at the end of last month.

It proposed an immediate raise of €250 a month, with a further increase next April of 4.15% in western Germany and 4.95% in eastern Germany.

After the rejection, IG Bau issued a press release quoting its leader, Robert Feiger, as saying “now we launch a massive strike”.

The release continued: “The concrete mixers will be silent across Germany, the trowels will be put away and the excavators will be put in their parking positions.”

Feiger didn’t say when this would be, but there have already been reports of stoppages, with more than 1,000 workers downing tools in Lower Saxony.

The unions had originally pressed for an increase of €500.

Feiger said the deal on the table would have “demanded a lot” from his members, but that they were prepared to agree to it owing to their “responsibility to society”.

He said it now fell to the employers to “explain to the developers why the house was not finished on time, and to drivers why the traffic jam in front of the motorway construction site now lasts two hours instead of just half an hour”.

He added that morale in the industry was “well below zero” owing to the lack of “any respect and recognition” from the companies.

The employers’ chief negotiator, Uwe Nostitz, spoke of “serious shortcomings” in the proposal, such as inconsistencies in the remuneration of trainees who would have received less money in their second year than their first.

He added: “The strikes will lead to construction delays and thus cause economic damage. Especially now, in difficult economic times, especially in housing construction, strike action comes at an inopportune time.”

Germany’s construction sector is already struggling with a rapid rise in interest rates and costs, putting an end to a years-long surge fuelled by low rates and strong demand for new buildings.

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