FRANKFURT, Jan 19 (Reuters) - German industrial companies aim to complete labour talks by early February to avert strikes, the head of their employers’ association said.
“It would be good for us all if this was done by early February,” Rainer Dulger told German weekly WirtschaftsWoche in an interview, adding the goal was to resolve a dispute with powerful labour union IG Metall.
Spurred on by the fastest economic growth in six years and record low unemployment, IG Metall is demanding 6 percent more pay for 3.9 million metals and engineering workers across Germany.
A big sticking point is a union demand that workers should have the right to reduce their weekly hours to 28 from 35 to care for children or elderly or sick relatives, and return to full-time employment after two years.
Employers have so far offered a pay rise of 2 percent plus a one-off 200-euro ($239) payment but have rejected demands for a shorter work week unless employers are allowed to increase hours temporarily as well.
They have also dismissed the idea that they should make up some of the pay shortfall for workers who cut their hours, saying that would mean some being paid a higher hourly wage than others.
“We cannot accept this unequal treatment. It would be the opposite of fair,” Dulger told WirtschaftsWoche.
Three rounds of regional talks have failed to reach agreement.
A fourth round begins in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, home to Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler and sports car brand Porsche, on Jan. 24.
Any deal in Baden-Wuerttemberg would typically be applied in other states as well.
If the two sides remain at loggerheads, IG Metall’s leadership may decide at a meeting on Jan. 26 to call for 24-hour walkouts or ballot the union’s members on strike action.
More than half a million workers at hundreds of metals and engineering companies have taken part in industrial action this month to support IG Metall’s demands. (Reporting by Maria Sheahan; editing by Andrew Roche)