TEN years after unification, teachers in east Germany are still paid far less than their colleagues in the west.
East German teachers work six hours a week more on average than those in the west because of the tradition of all-day schooling in the communist era. However, salaries are only 84 per cent of their western counterparts.
Public-sector employees in the east are demanding equality of wages and working hours.
Western teachers continue to pay an extra 8 per cent of their income in "solidarity tax" intended for the development of the east, which workers on the other side of the former border do not have to pay.
Germany's education ministers had agreed to work towards pay parity for teachersin the 16 states by this month, but wider negotiations over civil servants' pay have held this up.
Another setback for pay parity came when a court ruled it was not unconstitutional to treat workers in the east and west differently even if they are doing the same work. The ruling was condemned by the teachers' union, the GEW.
The country's two "salary zones" had to be fused, a GEW spokesman said, regardless of the legal position. Other unions want more state aid to help the eastern economy, but the GEW acknowledges that it will be many years before teachers are treated equally.
"Achieving complete parity in work and pay conditions will be our priority for the coming years," said Heike Gosch of the GEW.