BERLIN -- The German government welcomed DaimlerChrysler AG's offer to cut top executives' pay to resolve a dispute with employees over working hours, saying on Monday this was a positive example for the corporate world.
Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement appealed to top managers to share some of the burden when cutting costs.
"They should be willing to match what they demand from others," he said in Gelsenkirchen, a town in the western Ruhrgebiet heartland of German industry.
A DaimlerChrysler spokesman confirmed on Sunday that the board wanted to "make a contribution to an overall settlement" after German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that the board would forgo up to 10 percent of their pay.
Government spokesman Hans Langguth also welcomed DaimlerChrysler's step, but said the government did not want to interfere with negotiations.
"Surely it's true that if you demand cuts from recipients of small and medium wages as is the case with Daimler, it is a positive signal for the workforce if top earners are willing to accept cuts to their own salaries," Langguth told reporters.
Reinhard Buetikofer, head of Greens junior coalition partner, said top managers' pay was off kilter.
"If I had as much per month as they are possibly giving up, I would add a 'von' to my name," he added mockingly, referring to the prefix in the last names of German aristocrats.
Peer Steinbrueck, state premier of the most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia and a Social Democrat, told Bild newspaper he thought the pay of top executives was excessive.
Executive board members were now earning 240 times of what their employess were making, while 30 years ago it was only 30 times as much on average, he said.
JUST A GESTURE
Conservatives joined in the chorus.
"I hope that DaimlerChrysler's measure will serve as an example," said Edmund Stoiber, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and state premier in Bavaria. "I find that absolutely essential in terms of social symmetry."
But Martin Kannegiesser, head of industry association Gesamtmetall, which also represents DaimlerChrysler, hesitated to praise the company's proposed pay cut for top management.
"It's more of a gesture to display closing ranks than it is actually moving mountains," he told WDR radio, adding that major savings could only be achieved by slashing the big personnel cost blocs, not by cutting managers' pay.
The dispute, which led to 60,000 workers downing tools on Thursday, continued over the weekend when more than 10,000 employees failed to turn up because their works council refused to agree overtime, delaying the assembly of 1,000 cars.
DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes unit has demanded 500 million euros of annual savings at its main Sindelfingen plant near Stuttgart to avoid shifting production of the new C-class, due in 2007, to other plants.