BERLIN -- German industrial union IG Metall said on Tuesday it saw little chance of reaching a deal with employers on pay and working hours through talks, indicating it may stage an all-out strike to back its demands.
IG Metall deputy leader, Berthold Huber, said employer demands for wage contracts allowing them to vary working hours between 35 and 40 hours a week, were "completely unacceptable".
"I am sceptical that we will reach a solution at the negotiating table," Huber told Financial Times Deutschland.
IG Metall, which is demanding a four percent pay rise for some 3.5 million workers in Germany's key engineering sector this year, had previously said it would ballot members for an all-out strike at the end of February if there is no deal.
Economists say an all-out strike by IG Metall could dent recovery in Europe's largest economy and hurt its chances of attracting much-needed investment.
Since last month, the trade union has been staging short stoppages at plants across Germany to back its claim and to protest employers' working hour demands, which IG Metall says would cost jobs and amount to a longer week with no extra pay.
Business leaders say more flexible hours will secure and possibly create jobs by allowing them to adapt to fluctuations in demand and making German firms more competitive.
But government economic advisors took issue with both sides.
"Longer hours will not promote employment, rather they will reduce it," Juergen Kromphardt, a member of the government's panel of independent economic advisers, told Berliner Zeitung daily.
Government adviser Wolfgang Wiegard told the paper he did not see longer hours creating new jobs but also warned a hefty pay rise could aggravate unemployment in Germany, where one in 10 people is out of work.
IG Metall said it will target 45 firms with short stoppages on Tuesday. The walkouts would hit printing equipment machinery maker Heidelberger Druck, Airbus, Porsche and car components maker Robert Bosch.
Tens of thousands of workers have participated in the brief walkouts, which are a typical feature of German wage rounds.
Talks have repeatedly stalled since last month when the union rejected an employer offer for two 1.2 percent pay rises over 27 months.
In Baden-Wuerttemberg, the state which typically leads wage negotiations for the rest of Germany, the latest round of talks is set for Wednesday. The union's leadership is due to meet late on Tuesday to discuss the impact of the stoppages and consider future strategy. Huber said IG Metall members were ready to down tools if necessary but the union was not set on conflict.