Steel trade: “Something like this has never happened at Thyssenkrupp. Now we are in conflict mode” | EUROtoday

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Thyssenkrupp is promoting elements of its Steel Europe metal division – and is embarking on a confrontation course with its personal workforce and co-determination. On Thursday night, the supervisory board voted in opposition to the votes of the worker financial institution for the entry of the EP Corporate Group (EPCG) of the Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky. The decisive issue was the second voting rights of the chairman of the supervisory board, Siegfried Russwurm.

Subject to antitrust approval, EPCG will initially purchase 20 p.c of the shares. The stake will then later be elevated to 50 p.c and the metal division will turn out to be an unbiased firm. The indisputable fact that this determination is being made in a confrontational method is definitely uncommon for an organization reminiscent of Thyssenkrupp that historically has sturdy co-determination.

The works council and the IG Metall union are subsequently strongly crucial. “With Mr Russwurm's double vote, the last hopes of fair, democratic cooperation have been buried,” says Tekin Nasikkol, chairman of the Thyssenkrupp Group Works Council and himself a member of the Supervisory Board.

The way forward for Germany's largest metal producer is now going through unsure instances. CEO Miguel López is appearing irresponsibly and is taking full dangers. “Something like this has never happened at Thyssenkrupp. Now we are in conflict mode,” Nasikkol introduced.

IG Metall had already warned of the escalation that had now occurred

IG Metall has already introduced “fierce resistance”. “History was made at Thyssenkrupp today – in the worst possible sense,” says Jürgen Kerner, the second chairman of the big and highly effective union and deputy chairman of the supervisory board of Thyssenkrupp. He speaks of a “daring maneuver” that’s going down “in stormy times of all times.” “The employee side expressly welcomes EPCG's willingness to get involved in the steel sector,” assures Kerner.

And additionally it is comprehensible that investor Kretinsky desires to realize perception into the deliberate restructuring of the metal division. “However, neither this hasty approach nor an immediate 20 percent stake is necessary for this. Rather, prudence and clarity are required now. Instead, there is wild actionism to make the steel division independent. My conclusion: Thyssenkrupp is getting rid of its responsibility for its employees before the plan for the steel division has even been drawn up.”

IG Metall had already warned prematurely of the escalation that had now occurred. “If you want to deal with us like that, we will create the appropriate reaction in the workforce,” mentioned Knut Giesler, the district supervisor of IG Metall in North Rhine-Westphalia, to WELT. And that may price quite a lot of productiveness and in the end more cash than you may earn from an investor becoming a member of in. He is now asserting “months of unrest in the workforce and at the locations”.

The path to inexperienced metal should be developed in partnership

As a foretaste, the works council and the union had already organized a protest in entrance of Thyssenkrupp's headquarters in Essen earlier than the essential supervisory board assembly. Several thousand metal staff protested there for extra say and transparency in essential firm choices. The staff will not be basically in opposition to the entry of an investor. “We don’t close ourselves off from reality,” mentioned Nasikkol, for instance.

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“But we won’t let ourselves be sold cheaply either.” Without guarantees to the workers and the places, there can be no consent from the workers. “We have nothing against billionaires – as long as they bring money with them and invest in steel.” So far, nevertheless, the workers have no idea what Mr. Kretinsky is planning. “Does he want to make money with us, or does he want to make money from us?” The staff should lastly be taken alongside. “A restructuring of Thyssenkrupp AG against the people will not succeed,” mentioned Nasikkol. There should be an finish to “the course against co-determination”.

Politicians imagine that the workforce is behind them. After all, Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) lately warned that social partnerships must be revered and co-determination must be included. Now the North Rhine-Westphalia state authorities has repeatedly appealed to Thyssenkrupp's administration. “When you are in a difficult phase, transparency is the prerequisite for trust. Without transparency, trust can never be created,” mentioned NRW Labor and Social Affairs Minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU).

The path to inexperienced metal should be developed in partnership. “And if you want to develop something in partnership, then you are well advised to write a few sentences on a piece of paper at the beginning that apply. And of course the first thing that has to be written is: no redundancies for operational reasons.” In addition, collective agreements should be noticed and a plan developed “as to how we want to remain a steel location and with which measures and how we can implement and finance it.”

The restructuring additionally includes job cuts

The curiosity of politicians will be defined, on the one hand, by the big variety of individuals affected. Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe has round 27,000 staff, most of them at its headquarters in Duisburg. On the opposite hand, the federal and state governments have lately offered many billions of euros in funding for the inexperienced transformation of the metal trade. Thyssenkrupp, for instance, is receiving two billion euros alone for the development of a so-called direct discount plant through which low-emission metal is produced utilizing inexperienced hydrogen. Although these funds will not be linked to job ensures, says a spokesman for the NRW state authorities. However, “fair and viable solutions” are anticipated.

Meanwhile, CEO López emphasizes that redundancies must be averted. “But it won’t work without cuts,” mentioned the supervisor, who confronted the demonstrators and advocated for investor Kretinsky’s entry in a speech that was repeatedly interrupted by shouts of “boos,” “ugh,” and “liars.” After the conversion to climate-friendly manufacturing, considerably extra power can be required sooner or later. And EPCG has the mandatory experience and is a robust power accomplice.

He confirmed understanding for the protests. “We are facing big changes, and changes lead to uncertainty,” López mentioned. Without adjustments, issues would look unhealthy for the metal trade in Germany. Because the prices are too excessive and the demand is simply too low. But Thyssenkrupp wants a metal division that may assist its enterprise from a single supply. “If we don’t do anything now, we risk far more.”

Previous options have all the time failed

Thyssenkrupp's metal division is subsequently to be downsized. The plan is to scale back capability from 11.5 million tons to only 9 million tons. This restructuring may also contain job cuts. However, there aren’t any concrete figures or a timetable but. According to López, the Steel Europe board is at the moment nonetheless engaged on an idea.

Germany's largest metal producer has been in disaster for a number of years. However, earlier makes an attempt to resolve the issue have all the time failed. This applies to a deliberate IPO in addition to a three way partnership with Tata Steel Europe or a sale to competitor Liberty Steel. The state of affairs has lately worsened once more as a result of the automotive trade, Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe's largest buyer sector, is weakening. In addition, low-cost imports from the Far East are inflicting issues for the complete trade.