>From yesterday's Financial Times:
IG Metall moves towards strike by Tony Barber in Frankfurt Germany's biggest trade union, IG Metall, took the first formal steps towards an all-out strike yeterday when union officials in the most important industrial regions declared wage negotiations to have broken down and called for a nationwide strike ballot.
IG Metall leaders in Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and five northern coastal districts asked the union's national board to order a strike vote by the 2.7m rank-and-file members between February 22 and 24.
First signs were that the national board, which will meet in Frankfurt on Sunday, would approve the request.
If 75 percent of IG Metall's members support going on strike, the walkout is expected to start on March 1. "This sequence of events is inevitable," said Jurgen Peters, IG Metall's deputy leader.
Tens of thousands of metal and electrical workers staged brief warning strikes yesterday for the 10th successive weekday in support of their demand for a 6.5 per cent annual pay rise. The employers' association, Gesamtmetall, has formally offered 2.3 per cent, plus 0.5 per cent extra from companies that can afford it. Informally, it has signalled it might nudge its offer up to 3 per cent in total. Economists say the European Central Bank, which sets monetary policy for Germany and 10 other euro-zone countries, may delay an expected cut in interest rates if the employers concede a wage increase above 3 per cent. The annual IG Metall contract sets a benchmark for wage settlements in Germany, the largest euro-zone economy.