Thyssenkrupp Steel: Ministry urges employee participation

DUISBURG/DÜSSELDORF (dpa-AFX) – In the discussion about the future of Germany’s largest steel company thyssenkrupp Steel, the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Economic Affairs is urging employee participation. “NRW is the largest steel location in Europe. Of course, from our point of view, it is desirable if as many jobs as possible can be retained in this industry, which is so important for NRW,” said a ministry spokeswoman for the “Rheinische Post” (RP, Friday). “Therefore, employees continue to need to be closely involved in business decisions and planning for a possible upcoming restructuring of the group.”

Steel supervisory board chairman Sigmar Gabriel had said in an interview published on Monday in the “Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung” that the division’s board wanted to develop proposals for fundamental restructuring by mid-April in view of the expected, permanent decline in sales. “It certainly cannot be ruled out that when capacity is adjusted, there will also be a reduction in employment,” said Gabriel.

On Wednesday, the “Handelsblatt”, citing business circles, reported that the closure of at least one blast furnace and two rolling mills was being discussed, which could mean that one in five jobs could be at risk. Thyssenkrupp Steel rejected this in a statement: “At this point in time, all speculation about potentially affected units is speculation and highly dubious,” said a spokesman.

Around 27,000 people are employed in the Thyssenkrupp steel division, around 13,000 of them in Duisburg. The company operates four blast furnaces there, which are gradually to be replaced by more environmentally friendly steel production systems, so-called direct reduction systems. The division is struggling, among other things, with the economic downturn and high energy and raw material prices. The parent company Thyssenkrupp is planning to make the division independent.

The ministry spokeswoman reminded that the company receives state aid for the climate-friendly conversion. Thyssenkrupp Steel has already taken important steps to make the Duisburg plant future-proof, she told the RP. The state government is supporting the conversion with the largest single funding in the history of the state, primarily for the construction of the direct reduction plant in order to maintain jobs and added value in North Rhine-Westphalia and at the same time protect the climate.

In the WAZ interview, Gabriel had promised that employees would be involved: “Whatever suggestions come out of this will of course immediately be discussed with the co-determination side, the works councils and IG Metall,” he said. All decisions should only be made together with the co-determination committees, “as we have always done in the past”./tob/DP/jha

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