East German workers who have mounted warning strikes to press for higher wages and job security are only increasing the chances that their jobs will be eliminated, West Germany's economics minister says.
The minister, Helmut Haussmann, said Thursday that East German industry must become more productive before its workers can afford to make demands."In the next few weeks it will become clear who gets the upper hand psychologically - whether it's those who bring hope, new jobs and a new way of life, or the fearful and maybe even the malevolent," he was quoted as saying.
Lack of self-control on the salary front "will lead straight to unemployment," Haussmann said.
Brief warning strikes involving up to 30,000 people began Monday, the first work day after East and West Germany formally merged their economies, currencies and social welfare systems.
The East German news agency ADN said several thousand metal and shipyard workers continued work stoppages on Wednesday at plants in northern East Germany.
The workers are demanding more pay, better on-the-job training and a guarantee that they will keep their jobs for at least two years, ADN said.
But there are few guarantees in the free market into which East Germany is now entering and economists have predicted that up to one third of the former Communist state's 8,000 businesses could fail.
The experts say as many as half of East Germany's 8 million workers could lose their jobs.