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Striking for a 35-hour week

Striking for a 35-hour week
Source: dpa

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Steelworkers on strike

Frustration turns to anger! Inadequate wage offers, bulletjobs under threat - the steelworkers close ranks. It's their first strike for fifty years.

The workers ask for a relatively modest package of improvements to their wages and conditions: 5% more money and a few more days off. But there's one demand that stiffens the employers' resistance. The engineering sector union, IG Metall, wants a 35-hour working week.

It argues that a shorter week will not only mean a "humanisation" of work for its members but will also spread work around more equitably. With the ongoing bulletcrisis in steel, shorter hours will, says the union, prevent further lay-offs.

The employers refuse outright. It would only push up costs, they say. They fear that the introduction of reduced working hours in the steel sector is the thin end of the wedge. Other industries might follow.

Worried by the series of strikes and lockouts, the politicians finally intervene. In the end, a face-saving compromise is found: wages rise by 4% and officially the forty-hour week remains. However, paid but unworked shifts are agreed, so in practice the unions have broken this 40-hour barrier.

Dirk Bitzer

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