FRANKFURT Workers at German steelmaker Thyssenkrupp will refuse to pick up the tab for concessions being offered to British unions by Tata Steel to further a merger, Thyssenkrupp's labor chief told Reuters on Monday.
Thyssenkrupp and Tata have been in talks for about a year to merge their European steel operations to cut costs and overcapacity, but negotiations have been complicated by Tata's huge pension deficit in the UK.
The German company's labor chief Wilhelm Segerath said he sees no reason why Thyssenkrupp's plants should suffer because of job and investment guarantees offered to workers at Port Talbot, Britain's biggest steel plant, in return for pension cuts.
Tata has now offered to guarantee production at Port Talbot, Wales, for five years and to invest across its British business in return for being able to close the final-salary pension scheme to future accrual.
"If they get five years, we want at least 10 years," Segerath said. "We won't accept that our plants will now be endangered in a consolidation. Even an attempt to do so would trigger massive resistance from us."
He cited "enormous structural problems" at Port Talbot, which lost a million pounds ($1.22 million) a day in the past financial year but has since turned profitable, mainly thanks to external factors including higher prices and a weaker pound.
(Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff; Writing by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by David Goodman)