FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF (Reuters) - North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state and home to Thyssenkrupp, said on Wednesday it was confident a deal between workers and management could be reached to push through a steel merger with Tata Steel.
Thyssenkrupp and India’s Tata Steel last month agreed to merge their European steel operations to create a business with revenues of 15 billion euros ($17.6 billion), the second business steelmaker on the continent after ArcelorMittal.
Labour representatives have been fiercely opposed to the deal and have demonstrated against it, afraid that more steel jobs may have to go in the long term in addition to as many as 4,000 already announced as part of the deal.
They are demanding guarantees for jobs and factories.
Armin Laschet, state premier of North Rhine Westphalia, said he did not think Supervisory Board Chairman Ulrich Lehner would have to use his casting vote to push through the deal, adding those involved were trying to “find a solution everyone can say yes to in the end”.
Thyssenkrupp’s supervisory board is scheduled to approve the deal early next year, with closure expected by the end of 2018.
Laschet’s remarks come after Thyssenkrupp Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger tried to soothe relations by telling tabloid Bild that workers would retain rights of equal representation following the planned merger.
“German steelworkers will keep their co-determination just the way it is today,” Hiesinger was quoted as saying by the paper.
Co-determination in the coal and steel industries ensures equal numbers of labour and capital representatives on a company’s supervisory boards and is seen as key to winning over workers.
Hiesinger also confirmed that job cuts in Germany would not exceed 2,000 if the deal goes ahead, but could not rule out further job reductions, saying it was unclear what would happen “in five or ten years”.
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Reporting by Christoph Steitz and Matthias Inverardi; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Elaine Hardcastle