BERLIN -- German engineering union IG Metall said on Wednesday it expected metal workers in the eastern state of Saxony to strike next week following a breakdown in talks with employers for shorter working hours.
The giant German union said there had been "a huge show" in a ballot of 16,000 members at 85 firms including car maker Volkswagen AG and the union was confident of reaching the required 75 percent minimum needed to call a strike.
The ballot, expected to be concluded on Friday, follows last week's vote by east German steel workers in favor of strike action and comes as unions step up pressure on Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to water down his Agenda 2010 reform plans.
Strike action by engineering workers in Saxony would begin on Monday alongside strikes by the steel workers, with car industry suppliers and machine engineering firms in the region around the towns of Chemnitz and Zwickau expected to be hit first. A Volkswagen plant in Mosel could also be affected, a union spokeswoman said.
The spokesman said it had not yet been decided what form the strikes would take or how long they would last.
IG Metall called the strike ballots in eastern Germany to demand a cut in weekly working hours to 35 from the current 38 to bring the region into line with western Germany, where workers already have a 35-hour week.
IG Metall, which represents a total of some 310,000 workers in eastern Germany, says the gap between working hours in east and west, originally agreed to make up for the gap in productivity between the two sides, is increasingly unjustified given productivity advances by eastern German plants.
It is calling for the gradual harmonization of working hours across Germany but has said the process could be spread over several years.
Employers have rejected the demand, saying industry in the economically struggling east cannot afford to implement a shorter working week.