DUISBURG, Germany May 3 Thousands of
Thyssenkrupp steelworkers protested on Wednesday
against the German industrial group's plan to merge its European
steel operations with those of India's Tata Steel.
The two companies have been talking since last year about a
merger they say would support steel prices and raise efficiency
by taking excess capacity out of the market. Trade unions fear
large-scale job losses and question the logic of a deal.
"I find it intolerable the way that Thyssenkrupp is talking
the steel business into the ground," said Detlef Wetzel, the
representative of trade union IG Metall on Thyssenkrupp Steel
Europe's supervisory board.
"With friends like our management, who needs enemies?" he
asked at a demonstration at Thyssenkrupp's steel headquarters in
the German city of Duisburg,
IG Metall, which said about 7,500 steelworkers attended the
demonstration, fears 4,000 out of the 27,000 jobs at
Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe will be lost if the merger goes ahead.
Andreas Goss, head of Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe, denied any
such plans. He reiterated that the business planned to cut costs
by 500 million euros ($545 million) over the next three years,
which he said would help save jobs.
"There are no plans for job cuts of this order," he told the
Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. "At the moment, we have no
plans to close any sites. But of course we have to negotiate if
certain areas show no signs of making a profit long term."
Thyssenkrupp, which also builds elevators, submarines and
car parts, agreed in February to sell its loss-making Brazilian
steel mill CSA to rival Ternium for $1.3 billion and took
a 900 million euro writedown.
Thyssenkrupp's European steel operations are profitable and
considered among the continent's most efficient but the company,
which is 15 percent owned by activist investor Cevian Capital,
wants to focus on its capital goods businesses.
Talks with Tata have stumbled on the question of who will
assume liability for Tata Steel UK's huge pension fund.
Thyssenkrupp has said there are other, unspecified partners with
which it could merge its steel business.
($1 = 0.9169 euros)
(Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff; writing by Georgina Prodhan;
editing by David Clarke)