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German unions federation backs anti-austerity campaign

staat234BERLIN: The head of Germany's Federation of Trade Unions warned against the effects of austerity cuts in crisis-wracked southern European countries Wednesday and voiced solidarity with Europe-wide rallies and strikes.


The DGB, Europe's biggest trade union confederation with about eight million members, is organising demonstrations in several German towns. But it has not called a strike to mark the anti-austerity day.


"In Greece, Spain, Portugal, savings are being carried out in a one-sided way, at the expense of the people," DGB president Michael Sommer said on public broadcaster Deutschlandradio Kultur.


"These countries are not only making cutbacks but are being cut back to death. It's for that reason there is this resistance, this revolt," he said.


Germany had survived the second wave of Europe's financial crisis "relatively well" until now, Sommer said. Europe's top economy was beginning to slow down in certain sectors such as cars and chemicals, he noted.


"We want the right measures against the crisis, that means investing against the crisis and not making savings at all costs," he said.


And he appealed for action to tackle what he called the root cause of the financial crisis, describing it as the "domination by the financial markets".


"We are going to send a message of solidarity to these countries," he said.


About 100 people, mostly trade unionists, gathered in the western city of Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital, to show solidarity with southern European countries.


Steffen Merte, 41, a supporter of the far-left Die Linke party, said richer countries must stand side by side with poorer ones.


Stefan Koerzell, head of the Hesse-Thuringia branch of the DGB, called for policies which forced those who he claimed were responsible for the crisis as well as those who are well off to take responsibility.


"Let us not say it's a problem of the South... The crisis is also knocking at our door," he said adding that the rally aimed to show Germany was not just about austerity cuts but also "wants to fight to help people".


Thomas Wissgott, of the Verdi services union, agreed.


"The consequences are fortunately not yet as bad as in Greece or in Spain but the symptoms are the same.


"Health is becoming more expensive, the public service is increasingly privatised.," he told AFP.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spearheaded the European drive for budgetary discipline as an answer to the eurozone debt crisis, but critics say the policy is snuffing out the economic growth necessary for a viable recovery.


Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2010


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