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German steelmaker thyssenkrupp plans production cuts in Duisburg

In World
April 12, 2024
A general view of the logo of the Engineering company thyssenkrupp. Roland Weihrauch/dpa

A general view of the logo of the Engineering company thyssenkrupp. Roland Weihrauch/dpa

Thyssenkrupp Steel’s announcement late on Thursday of production cuts at its plant in the western German city of Duisburg has raised alarm and concern among local leaders.

Thyssenkrupp management announced that production capacity in Duisburg would be significantly reduced, including through “as yet unquantified job losses.”

Around 27,000 people currently work for thyssenkrupp Steel, Germany’s largest steelmaker and a division of industrial giant thyssenkrupp. About 13,000 of those workers are employed in Duisburg.

Trade union leaders responded on Friday that they would only discuss production cuts at the Duisburg plant if thyssenkrupp ruled out mandatory redundancies well beyond March 2026, when a current job security agreement is set to expire.

The company said only that it hopes to continue to avoid redundancies even as it implements the production cuts.

“We are demanding a future instead of redundancy,” the head of the works council for the steel division, Tekin Nasikkol, said. “We won’t budge on that, we’re drawing red lines.”

Nasikkol said a general meeting has been called for April at the MSV Duisburg football stadium, which has a seating capacity of 31,500.

“We will not accept that tens of thousands of people have to fear for their jobs,” said Knut Giesler, a local leader for the IG Metall steelworkers trade union.

Thyssenkrupp plans to reduce production capacity in Duisburg from the current 11.5 million tons per year to between 9 and 9.5 million tons per year, a reduction of about 17-22%.

Production volumes in Duisburg also include steel produced by the Duisburg-based Hüttenwerke Krupp Mannesmann (HKM), which is 50% owned by thyssenkrupp Steel. About 3,000 people work at HKM.

The economy minister for the state of North Rhine Westphalia, which includes Duisburg, called the news “disappointing” for workers, the region and all of Germany.

The minister, Mona Neubaur, pointedly noted that thyssenkrupp has received billions of dollars in government support in recent years and called on the company to find a fair solution for affected workers.

Germany was once a global leader in steel production, but has seen the steel industry struggle in recent decades against often lower-cost overseas competitors.

Neubaur said thyssenkrupp needs to press ahead with plans to make its production processes more climate-friendly as a way toward a sustainable future.

A major planned construction programme for the Duisburg site – replacing a blast furnace with a hydrogen-powered direct reduction plant and two smelters – should move forward, she said.

The project was planned in coordination with the European Commission, she noted. Public subsidies are covering about two-thirds of the €3 billion ($3.2 billion) price tag.

Giesler, the trade union leader, said thyssenkrupp needs to explain how, only nine months after receiving the subsidies, “a structural realignment has been announced that will have an impact on thousands of jobs.”

Thyssenkrupp Steel said that it would continue the conversion of production towards climate-neutral steelmaking.

“The construction of the first direct reduction plant at the Duisburg site will continue to be implemented as planned, with the support of the subsidies released for this purpose by the federal and state governments,” the company said.

The goal of achieving completely climate-neutral production by 2045 at the latest also remains unchanged, according to the company.

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