German engineering union IG Metall launches its first in a series of strikes throughout eastern Germany, as it lobbies for an increase in wages for its 2.8 million members. The union says companies must raise salaries of its union members by 6.5% or face a national strike.

Several thousand IG Metall members marched in the middle of the day on March 25, causing a temporary halt in production at Volkswagen AG’s plant in the state of Saxony, Germany.

The union plans additional protests in eastern Germany later in the week. The next round will target facilities dedicated to Siemens AG, DaimlerChrysler AG and ThyssenKrupp AG.

Protests are being isolated to eastern Germany because West German law prevents workers from taking industrial action before March 28, when the grace period after the expiration of the current wage contract expires.

IG Metall is demanding an increase in wages because of continued high inflation in Germany over the past few years. The union says it may ask members to vote to hold a full-scale strike throughout Germany at the end of April, if a settlement is not reached with the industrial sector.

A national strike is the last thing the government needs, because it could plunge the German economy further into recession and cause a ripple effect throughout Europe.