Trade union sets deadline in talks over Thyssenkrupp Tata Steel deal

5 December 2017

German labor union IG Metall has given Thyssenkrupp until Dec. 22 to agree guarantees on jobs, plants and investment if the company is to get the union’s backing for its deal with Tata Steel to merge their European steel operations.

The deadline puts further pressure on Thyssenkrupp Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger, who has said he wants the approval of shop stewards for the plan to merge the group’s European steel business with that of India’s Tata Steel.

Hiesinger, in the job since 2011, is trying to transform Thyssenkrupp into a technology group focused on car parts and elevators and workers say the company is shirking its responsibilities towards them by hiving off the steel business.

“We are putting an end to this process of playing for time. We will negotiate until Dec. 22 and that will be the end,” labor representative Detlef Wetzel, who is also deputy supervisory board chairman of Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe, told Reuters on Monday.

“If there is an outcome to negotiations by then we will let IG Metall members vote on it.”

Thyssenkrupp has said the steel business needs an external partner to cope with continued pressure from cheap Chinese imports and has warned that dropping the Tata Steel deal would result in even bigger cutbacks.

In contrast, demand for Thyssen’s new generation of elevators and car components helped take new orders in the year ended Sept. 30 to the highest level in five years.

Hiesinger hopes to reach a final deal with Tata Steel in early 2018 but that depends on whether he can get it passed by Thyssenkrupp’s supervisory board, where workers’ representatives have called for jobs and plants to be secure for 10 years.

Labour leaders 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.