Hundreds of industrial workers walked off their jobs briefly Sunday in the first wave of warning strikes aimed at winning wage increases they maintain are their slice of the profits from Germany's economic upturn.
Some 800 workers in the western state of Rheinland-Palatinate staged union-organized hour-long strikes at auto parts supplier Continental AG and other industrial plants, among the first to launch a wave of walkouts expected to spread throughout the coming week.
Workers in Lower Saxony and Berlin also walked off their jobs for an hour, gathering at rallies set up outside factory gates.
The IG Metall union is seeking a 6.5-percent wage increase this year for 3.4 million manufacturing workers, arguing that a large rise is justified by the nation's economic recovery after years of stagnation.
It has rejected an offer employers made last month of a 3-percent increase _ made up of a formal salary rise of 2.5 percent and a half-percent "economy bonus." The next round of talks is scheduled to take place on Thursday.
A union leader insisted employers were to blame for the strikes.
"We are asking for our deserved share of the economic growth and we are prepared to do what it takes to achieve this," Berthold Huber said.
IG Metall plans to continue the strikes on Monday in Berlin, Baden-Wuerttemberg and North Rhine Westphalia, including during the night shift at DaimlerChrysler plants.
More than 100,000 workers from more than 100 factories in the key industrial state of Bavaria, home to BMW and Siemens, are also to take part in strikes by the end of the week.
Pay negotiations in Germany are conducted industrywide and on a region-by-region basis. A deal in one region tends to set the pattern for the rest of the country.
Union officials at automakers BMW AG, Volkswagen AG and DaimlerChrysler AG as well as Continental said they would be ready to strike on May 2. Companies like ThyssenKrupp AG and General Motors Corp.'s Adam Opel unit could also see walkouts.
Last year, some 700,000 IG Metall workers staged strikes for a month before they and employers agreed to a 3-percent increase in wages, plus one-time payments.
Germany has come out of the economic doldrums. Unemployment is below 10 percent for the first time since 2002, production is on the rise and optimism by both businesses and consumers is rising to new highs. The government has also raised its forecast for 2007 economic growth for the second time this year, predicting that gross domestic product would increase by 2.3 percent.