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German Unions, Not Workers, Are The Obstacle

I believe rigid inflexibility of German work laws, not working hours, is the main issue, ("The lazy men of Europe no more?" European Business, June 7). Very few would mind working a few hours more, and in many areas a certain flexibility is already practiced. But our unions mentally haven't left the 1960s yet. Such flexibility imposes great cost for the employer or even managers and supervisors of the respective work groups, since penalties will be levied against them if their workers show too much flexibility.

Also, while union membership is at an all-time low, about 75% of the Social Democrat members of Parliament are card-carrying union members and have an influence on public decisions that is way out of proportion to their actual size. Most workers in competitive industries -- and Germany still has a lot of them -- realize that if their jobs are to stay in Germany, we must distribute work smarter than we do today. And yes, also work a little more.

Joerg Boese

Suestedt, Germany

I agree with fellow reader Joel A. Claghorn's letter that falling dollar values (with more to come) are the most influential cause for surging oil prices ("The declining dollar's overlooked impact on oil prices," Readers Report, June 7, responding to "Energy: The big squeeze," News: The United States, May 17). With a record U.S. budget deficit, trillions of dollars in Chinese and other Asian central bank vaults awaiting eventual disposal, plus an impending rush to trade dollar holdings by individuals and institutions for the now stable euro, it should not surprise us if the barrel hits the $50 mark come this fall.

The endemic dumping of local currencies into their economies by Asian governments to sustain so-called manufacturing export competitiveness is not helpful either. OPEC is shrewd enough to resist the pressure to exchange its only exportable commodity for bundles of paper notes, except perhaps the Saudis who have their own reasons.

The price increases of other commodities always influenced by political manipulation of the economy, like steel and milk, are not isolated phenomena. The Fed could as well start sponging up the over-spill of greenbacks and hike interest rates after all.

Salim A. Khan

Dhaka, Bangladesh

In "France's crackdown on Islamic radicals" (International Outlook, June 7), John Rossant states: "Close to 10% of France's population is of Muslim background, a higher share than for any other country in Europe." In fact, there are a number of countries in Europe where more than 10% of the population is of the Muslim faith, including Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, and -- depending on what is considered to be a European country or the geographic limits of the European continent -- Georgia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan. There are more than 30 million persons of the Muslim faith in Europe.

Barry Zitser

West Hartford, Conn.

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