Strikes hit German automotive industry

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Berlin - Rolling strikes hit the German automotive industry Wednesday as the powerful IG Metall trade union called members off the job in support of demands for early retirement packages. A Daimler castings plant at Mettingen near Stuttgart was idled just after midnight when 700 union members refused to work their shift, IG Metall said. At Bosch, the country's top auto components supplier, 400 workers in Stuttgart stopped work for the day.

At Neckarsulm, an Audi plant was idled for an hour during a labour rally.

The union says more than 100,000 union members at 150 factories will take part in a succession of short-duration strikes up to Friday to induce the industrial employers' association in the region to guarantee labour buyouts to all older workers.

A state scheme expiring at the end of next year is being used by many workers to retire when they turn 57 with large pensions.

Berlin has become disenchanted with early retirement, which was meant to create jobs for young people, because of the huge costs, and has instead raised the standard retirement age from 65 to 67.

IG Metall is demanding that employers keep the scheme going alone past 2009 by topping up worker pensions. The union says terms secured in Stuttgart would then set a precedent in the rest of Germany.