An all-out strike has been averted in the German steel sector, with employers and unions finally reaching a wage agreement after six hours of overnight last-ditch talks, the powerful labour union IG Metall said.
Under the terms of the deal, struck in the early hours of Wednesday morning, 85,000 west German steel workers will see their wages increased by 3.5 percent pay from September 1.
And for the period from April to August, they will receive a one-off payment of 500 euros (645 dollars).
“We’re very satisfied,” said IG Metall’s chief negotiator Detlef Wetzel. This was “an extraordinarily good result and a fair compromise.”
No other sector had reached a comparable agreement. But the talks had been very hard, Wetzel said.
The union had originally been demanding wage increases of 6.5 percent in view of the current worldwide steel boom and companies’ runaway profits. And it had even said Tuesday it would ballot its members over going an all-out strike later this month in pursuit of those demands.
The ballot was to have taken place between May 13 and 19, with the walkouts scheduled to start as early as May 23 in what would have been the first full-scale industrial action in the sector in more than 25 years.
Employers, who had been offering a pay rise of 2.4 percent over 19 months and a one-off payment of 800 euros, were less satisfied with the result.
“We would have sensibly wanted to reach a different compromise,” said the head of the employers association, Helmut Koch. “Unfortunately, we were not able to achieve what we wanted.”
But the employers could live with the wage deal, Koch added.
“What’s important is that we’ve been able to avoid labour dispute in our industry.”
Later reporting included this interesting comment from ThyssenKrupp:
One of the biggest employers in the industry, ThyssenKrupp Steel AG, a unit of industrial conglomerate ThyssenKrupp AG (TKA.XE), said: “In the current economic environment ThyssenKrupp Steel regards the settlement as painful and just about justifiable in order not to jeopardize supplies to customers.”