At ThyssenKrupp, thousands of workers are already on short-time work schemes. But the company plans to slash jobs in its steel sector: in Germany, production is down by more than 50 percent.
Steel workers take to the streets in Duisburg
An estimated 15,000 workers on Monday protested against plans by Germany's largest steel maker, ThyssenKrupp AG, to cut up to 2,000 jobs at its seven plants in the country by 2011.
Steel workers snaked through the city of Duisburg in a convoy of about 300 cars, 1,500 workers protested at the Nordseewerke wharf in Emden, and about 1,000 demonstrators participated in the protest at HDW shipbuilders in Kiel. About 3,000 workers held a vigil at the company's steel works in Bochum. Thousands more were gathered at other ThyssenKrupp sites.
Hundreds join in an auto convoy to protest job cuts
IG Metall union fears a loss of at least 5,000 jobs
Thomas Schlenz, head of the works' council, says he is open to negotiations with ThyssenKrupp management ahead of Wednesday's board meeting. “I expect essential agreement concerning our key demands so that we can reach a basis for negotiations,” Schlenz told Germany's dpa news agency. Employees are demanding job security and the continuation of workers' participation in decision-making. The Duesseldorf-based company said last week that the planned cuts were brought on by the economic slump, but that it would try to eliminate the jobs through a range of programs, rather than through direct layoffs. The company also said it did not foresee the need to close any of its plants.
Record breakdown in steel production
Meanwhile, German steel production has recorded its worst slump since 1949.
The Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden announced on Monday that production in the steel industry is down by more than 50 percent.
German smelting works produced 1,06 million tons of iron ore and 1,88 million tons of crude steel last month - a staggering 56,8 percent less iron ore and 53,1 percent less crude steel than in the same period in 2008.
The German Steel Federation does not expect the situation to improve any time soon. “We expect a decline of more than 25 percent for 2009,“ a spokeswoman said.
Grim outlook for the steel-using industries
Demand for steel and other construction materials has fallen off precipitously since the downturn began at the end of last year.
Nationwide, iron ore is only being produced at nine of the 15 German blast furnaces – and they have been operating at a mere 50 percent of their capacity. As a result, 45,000 of the 94,000 people employed by Germany's steel industry are currently working reduced hours.