Some 1.2 million civil servants across the country have gone on a 24-hour strike in protest of the government's unwillingness to meet their demands after the government and civil servant unions failed to reach an agreement on wage increases for this and next year at their eighth and final meeting on Monday.
The government increased its offer to a 3.5 percent raise for each half of the year for 2012, up from an earlier offer of 3 percent. However, the unions remained undaunted in their demand for twice as much as the government was willing to cede.
An arbitration board of 10 people, which consist of five government representatives and five others from various trade unions, will reach a final decision on a wage increase by Wednesday afternoon. Monday's strike first affected trains as train workers began their strike at 5 a.m. on Monday.
Parliament recently amended the law governing civil servants' rights, giving civil servants the right to bargain collectively. Prior to the amendment of the law, civil servant unions used to meet with the government once a year for negotiations.
However, they did not have the legal right to take to the streets, strike or undertake a work slowdown if the government rejected their demands for a wage hike. The Civil Servants' Trade Union (Memur-Sen) has demanded a 7.5 percent wage hike for each half of this year. It has also demanded a “6.5 percent + 6.75 percent” wage raise package for 2013.