BERLIN, May 31 (Reuters) - 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 a statement.
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)