Industrial workers in Germany launched two days of strikes for a 6.5 per cent pay increase today.
Around 800 IG Metall union members kicked off the action at a Daimler AG car factory in Dusseldorf at 4am when they were due to start their morning shift.
Addressing pickets outside the factory gates, IG Metall district head for North Rhine-Westphalia Oliver Burkhard declared: "Our patience is over.
"If the employer does not deliver, then these strikes are just the beginning. We are ready to fight."
Thousands of IG Metall members joined the strike as the day progressed, with many taking part in colourful protest marches outside factories around the country.
An auto parts suppliers' plant in Bavaria, a Miele factory in Hanover, a MAN plant in Munich and a Thales facility in Thuringia were all hit by the action.
Car industry employees walked out in Saxony and Hesse, and protest rallies were staged in Berlin.
IG Metall is calling for a 6.5 per cent rise over 12 months for its 3.6 million members.
It is also demanding guaranteed full-time jobs at the end of apprenticeships and more say over the employment of temps.
Employers have offered 3 per cent over 14 months.
At a rally outside a plant in Andernach regional IG Metall leader Armin Schild called the offer "a provocation" for Europe's "strongest sector."
The next round of negotiations is scheduled for May 8 in Baden-Wuerttemberg.
But metal industry association chief Martin Kannengiesser insisted today employers won't budge.
IG Metall, which is a member of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB), will stay out tomorrow.
At a May Day demo in Stuttgart on Tuesday DGB president Michael Sommer praised IG Metall's "fighting ability."
"We need good pay increases this year and we're going to fight for them," he pledged.
"We're all aware of IG Metall's fighting abilities and we're all proud of that. But we can't expect it to happen on its own."
Mr Sommer hailed public sector union Verdi for recently securing a 6.3 per cent pay rise over two years for its two million members.
Official inflation figures understate the real extent of rising costs, but even the government's own CPI scheme lays bare the ongoing misery for working people and those dependent on benefits.
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