BERLIN May 31 German Economy Minister Brigitte
Zypries urged German industrial gases group Linde on
Wednesday not to force through a planned $73 billion merger with
U.S. peer Praxair against the will of German workers.
Linde's supervisory board is due to vote on the merger on
Thursday, and Chairman Wolfgang Reitzle has said he is prepared
to use his casting vote in favour of the merger to break an
expected tie between shareholder representatives for and worker
representatives against the deal.
Like all German companies above a certain size, Linde's
board of directors has equal representation of labour and
capital interests. Imposing such strategic decisions without the
agreement of workers is rare.
"The proposed merger of Linde and Praxair requires the
employees to accept it because a takeover cannot work well
without the complete support of the workforce," Zypries said in
She said she supported a call by Michael Vassiliadis, head
of trade union IG BCE, for mediation, adding: "The aim of all
participants should be to get a broad consensus. Every day
without common communication damages the company and so jobs."
Zypries is a member of the Social Democratic Party, which
has strong ties to the trade unions. Federal elections will be
held in Germany this September.
Labour representatives including trade unions fiercely
oppose the merger because they fear a dilution of the influence
they enjoy under German law since the headquarters of the new
company are planned to be in another European country.
However, one labour representative on the supervisory board
is head of the the works council at a Dresden plant that could
face closure if the merger does not go through, and German media
have said he may abstain in Thursday's vote.
The representative, Frank Sonntag, did not want to comment
on the matter on Wednesday, his secretary said.
(Reporting by Gernot Heller; Additional reporting by Georgina
Prodhan; Writing by Michelle Martin and Georgina Prodhan;
Editing by Adrian Croft)