October 13, 2017 / 2:00 PM / 8 months ago

Workers remain sceptical about Thyssen-Tata steel deal

DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Labour leaders remain sceptical about a planned merger of Thyssenkrupp’s European steel operations with those of Tata Steel, following the first meeting of a working group set up to convince workers to back the deal.

A bus is reflected in a Tata sign outside their offices in London, Britain March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Thyssenkrupp and Tata Steel last month announced plans for a joint venture that would create Europe’s second-largest steelmaker after ArcelorMittal. There would be an initial 4,000 job cuts that workers fear will be the tip of the iceberg.

To appease workers, whose approval is crucial to Thyssenkrupp’s Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger, a group of board members and labour representatives was set up shortly after the announcement.

“Today, we were presented with the key points of the memorandum of understanding,” Detlef Wetzel, deputy supervisory board chairman of Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe said following the group’s first meeting on Friday.

“Initially, this has raised more questions than answers,” Wetzel said, adding he expected lengthy and difficult talks.

Labour representatives hold half of the 20 seats on Thyssenkrupp’s supervisory board and while a deal can still be pushed through without their consent their approval could significantly smooth the transaction.

The working group is headed by Markus Grolms, deputy chairman of Thyssenkrupp’s supervisory board, and Oliver Burkhard, member of the group’s executive board, where he is chief human resources officer.

Thyssenkrupp's logo is seen close to the elevator test tower in Rottweil, Germany, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/Files

Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff; Writing by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Elaine Hardcastle

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