Audi, BMW workers stage strikes amid talks over wages, hours

BMW staff at three factories in Dingolfing, Landshut and Regensburg in Germany were to down tools on Friday amid demand for higher pay and shorter working hours. (Reuters)
Updated 12 January 2018

Audi, BMW workers stage strikes amid talks over wages, hours

FRANKFURT: Workers at German companies including premium carmakers Audi and BMW are staging further walkouts on Friday amid labor talks seeking higher pay and shorter working hours which are set to continue next week.
Powerful labor union IG Metall said workers at Audi’s main plant in Ingolstadt in Bavaria downed tools during the night shift and BMW staff at three factories in Dingolfing, Landshut and Regensburg were to follow suit on Friday.
Spurred on by the fastest economic growth in six years and record low joblessness, the union is demanding 6 percent more pay for 3.9 million metals and engineering workers.
It has also embarked on its first major campaign for shorter working hours in more than three decades, demanding that workers gain the right to reduce their weekly hours to 28 from 35 to care for children or elderly or sick relatives and then return to full-time employment after two years.
Employers have offered 2 percent plus a one-off €200 payment in the first quarter.
They have rejected demands for a shorter working week unless hours could be increased temporarily as well so as not to put output at risk.
Labor bosses and industrial employers took a small step toward a deal in regional talks in southwestern Baden-Wuerttemberg on Thursday, agreeing to appoint experts to look into the issue of working hours.
Some 160,000 workers have already taken part in industrial action this week to support IG Metall’s wage claims and the union has threatened to call for 24-hour walkouts if talks fail to make progress.
Labor talks for workers in Baden-Wuerttemberg will resume on January 24. Talks in Bavaria continue on Monday and in North Rhine-Westphalia resume on Thursday.


Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

Updated 06 July 2020

Analysts urge Canada to focus on boosting the economy

  • Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time

TORONTO: Canada should focus on boosting economic growth after getting pummeled by the COVID-19 crisis, analysts say, even as concerns about the sustainability of its debt are growing, with Fitch downgrading the nation’s rating just over a week ago.

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau will deliver a “fiscal snapshot” on Wednesday that will outline the current balance sheet and may give an idea of the money the government is setting aside for the future.

As the economy recovers, some fiscal support measures, which are expected to boost the budget deficit sharply, could be wound down and replaced by incentives meant to get people back to work and measures to boost economic growth, economists said.

“The only solution to these large deficits is growth, so we need a transition to a pro-growth agenda,” said Craig Wright, chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada. The IMF expects Canada’s economy to contract by 8.4 percent this year. Ottawa is already rolling out more than C$150 billion in direct economic aid, including payments to workers impacted by COVID-19.

Further stimulus measures could include a green growth strategy, as well as spending on infrastructure, including smart infrastructure, economists said. Smart infrastructure makes use of digital technology.

“We have to make sure that government spending is calibrated to the economy of the future rather than the economy of the past,” Wright said.

Canada lost one of its coveted triple-A ratings in June when Fitch downgraded it for the first time, citing the billions of dollars in emergency aid Ottawa has spent to help bridge the downturn caused by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and DBRS still give Canadian debt the highest rating. At DBRS, Michael Heydt, the lead sovereign analyst on Canada, says his concern is about potential structural damage to the economy if the slowdown lingers too long.

Fiscal policymakers “need to be confident that there is a recovery underway before they start talking about (debt) consolidation,” Heydt said.

Fitch expects Canada’s total government debt will rise to 115.1 percent of GDP in 2020 from 88.3 percent in 2019.

Royce Mendes, a senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said the economy still needs more support.

“Turning too quickly toward austerity would be a clear mistake,” he said.