On Thursday, the supervisory board of the industrial group Thyssenkrupp approved a 20 percent stake in the steel division for the energy company EPCG. The decision was made with the second voting rights of the chairman of the supervisory board against the votes of the employee representatives, as Thyssenkrupp announced. At the end of April, the board reached a fundamental agreement with EPCG about joining.

The EPCG holding is owned by the Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky. The strategic partnership will primarily focus on energy supplies. Among other things, it owns, in whole or in part, the lignite companies Mibrag and Leag in East Germany, which want to generate more climate-neutral electricity from renewable energies in the future. Slovakia’s largest electricity producer, Slovenske elektrarny, is also part of his conglomerate. Kretinsky is also the largest shareholder in the wholesaler Metro. The EPCG share is to be increased to 50 percent in the future and the steel division is to be made independent.

The Thyssenkrupp steel division is Germany’s largest steel company. Around 27,000 people work there, 13,000 of them in Duisburg alone. The production capacities in Duisburg are to be significantly reduced against the background of economic weakness and high energy costs, which will be associated with job cuts. However, details about this are still open.

IG Metall: Risks of the sale are completely unclear

IG Metall expressed its dismay at the supervisory board’s decision. The risks arising from the sale are completely unclear, explained the second chairman of IG Metall, Jürgen Kerner. He is also deputy chairman of the supervisory board of Thyssenkrupp AG. “The steel board is currently working on a restructuring plan that will probably result in thousands of jobs being lost.” Billions of euros would be required for the restructuring. “Thyssenkrupp AG is shirking its responsibility for its employees before the plan for the steel division has even been presented.”

The employee side expressly welcomes EPCG’s willingness to get involved in steel, Kerner continued. “We also understand that Mr. Kretinsky would like to gain insight into the development of the new plan.” However, this does not require a hasty approach or an immediate 20 percent stake. “Rather, prudence and clarity are now required.” Instead, there is wild activism to send the steel sector into independence. “This will meet with our fierce resistance,” he continued.

Thyssenkrupp: Strategic partnership is an important step

Thyssenkrupp, on the other hand, expressed optimism. “EPCG’s entry combines Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe’s leading materials know-how with EPCG’s energy expertise,” it said. The transaction is scheduled to be completed in the current fiscal year. “The strategic partnership with EPCG is an important step towards securing resilient, cost-efficient and climate-friendly steel production at Thyssenkrupp Steel – and thus also a significant contribution to securing the steel industry in Germany,” the company said.

Before the meeting, several thousand employees demonstrated at lunchtime for more say and transparency in important company decisions. IG Metall criticized that it did not know enough about EPCG’s planned entry to be able to approve it in the supervisory board. “A restructuring of Thyssenkrupp AG against the people will not succeed,” said group works council chairman Tekin Nasikkol. There must be an end to “the course against co-determination”.

López: Still no redundancies for operational reasons

CEO Miguel López also spoke at the rally. “We want to create socially acceptable solutions in constructive cooperation with employee representatives,” said López. “There should continue to be no redundancies for operational reasons. But we have to act so that steel from Duisburg continues to have a perspective.” There were numerous hecklers during López’s speech.