On Thursday (February 7) the 1.8 million members of OTV, West Germany's trade union for public service workers, balloted for a strike that could paralyse the country's public services.
On Thursday (February 7) the 1.8 million members of OTV, West Germany's trade union for public service workers, balloted for a strike that could paralyse the country's public services. The employers, represented by the Federal Minister of the Interior, Herr Dietrich Genscher, have turned down the union's demand for a 15 to 17 per cent wage increase. Herr Genscher has offered 9.5 per cent -- an increase that would match the forecast increase in German inflation during 1974.
The result of the OTV ballot is due to be announced on Sunday (10 February). Few doubt that the poll will favour a strike. If they are right the strike will begin on Wednesday (13 February). From there on motorists will be able to park where they like because the traffic wardens will be on strike. But more seriously, so too will the postmen and the dustmen. The bus drivers, the underground workers, railwaymen, civil servants, and Federal and International Airport employees are also threatening to go on strike. From Wednesday it could be impossible to get married in West Germany -- the registrars' offices may strike too.
The union will probably call out its members just "where it hurts the employers most" rather than a nationwide strike. Nobody knows how effective the strike will be, particularly as many senior public employees are forbidden by law from striking, and may well keep a skeleton service running.
If the strike goes ahead it could mark the end of many years of harmony between Germany's employers and the sixteen giant trade unions. Another major confrontation between the employers and IG Metall, Germany's largest union, is now threatening at Baden Wuerttemberg and Bremen.
These threats to Germany's industrial harmony are taking place in a year when Chancellor Willi Brandt plans to put before Parliament a law to give workers an equal voice in the running of the industries they work for. The cause is said to be the increasing price of oil which has set off a chain-reaction that has devalued wages and swelled unemployment to nearly half a million.