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Frankfurt Subway Drivers Start Week of Public-Sector Strikes

Subway drivers in Frankfurt and daycare staff in Mainz went on strike today, starting a week of walkouts by German public-sector workers as the Ver.di labor union attempts to push through wage increases.

Warning strikes are planned in the states of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland after Ver.di called on all public-sector employees to participate in the action, union spokesman Christoph Schmitz said by phone. Strikes will start in the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania tomorrow and cover all 16 German states by March 9, he said.

Ver.di, Germany’s second-biggest union, wants 6.5 percent increases for 2 million public-sector workers and a minimum raise of 200 euros ($264) a month, in contrast to workers in nations from Ireland to Greece that are seeing their pay cut as governments try to reduce debt. Ver.di called on its members to take action after talks on March 1 failed to produce an offer. A second round of negotiations is scheduled to take place on March 12 and March 13 in Potsdam.

“Employers have not made an offer, we feel that’s a provocation,'' Schmitz said by telephone today. While this week’s actions are not intended to bring public life to a standstill, Ver.di expects ‘‘several thousand employees'' from institutions including job centers, public transportation and municipal administrations to join today, he said.

Record Employment

The German economy may help to counter a slump in the euro zone as governments impose spending cuts, hurting hiring and consumer demand. German unemployment was at its lowest in more than two decades in February and January employment stood at a record 41.4 million people.

Almost 3,000 workers in clinics, childcare and elderly care facilities, garbage collection, savings banks and municipal organizations in Rhineland-Palatinate will take part in in warning strikes, Ver.di spokesman Juergen Dehnert said. Today’s focus is on Mainz and Ludwigshafen, where authorities closed daycare centers because of an expected shortage of staff, he said.

In Hesse, walkouts are targeted mainly at Frankfurt and surrounding communities, where ‘‘several thousand'' employees are participating, with public transportation workers on strike from early morning and other groups, including daycare and vehicle licensing staff, following suit, Christian Rothlaender, a spokesman for Ver.di in Hesse, said. The state has about 125,000 public-sector employees, he said.

Metro trains and trams in Frankfurt aren’t running today, and services on several bus routes have also been halted, the city’s transportation authority, Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund, said on its website. The network carries about 2 million passengers each day.

In Saarland, public-sector employees including auxiliary police and cemetery workers will strike in Saarbruecken and other towns.

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