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Thyssenkrupp steel revamp to happen without forced layoffs

FILE PHOTO: Thyssenkrupp's logo is seen in the elevator test tower in Rottweil

By Christoph Steitz and Tom Käckenhoff

FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF (Reuters) - The restructuring of Thyssenkrupp's struggling steel unit will take place without forced layoffs, the company said on Monday, meeting a key demand of powerful labour unions that have lashed out harshly at management in recent weeks.

Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe (TKSE), in which Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky wants to take a 20% stake, has said it needs to cut jobs and capacity, stoking fears among the division's roughly 27,000 workers that compulsory redundancies are on the cards.

But those are to be avoided in an agreement reached between parent Thyssenkrupp AG, Kretinsky's EPCG and TKSE, the company said in an e-mailed statement, adding this provided a "stable and reliable" framework for upcoming changes.

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In addition, labour representatives will form a committee to join the division's restructuring process, which marks a major step towards securing workers' support for the planned partial sale as well as painful cuts.

"The basic agreement is also an important step as the implementation of the new business plan will take several years," TKSE said in a statement.

TKSE's leadership is currently working on the division's new business plan, which will likely entail a proposal to cut thousands of jobs, and is expected to present the plan to the relevant committees this summer.

A spokesperson for IG Metall, Germany's most powerful union, said that while the agreement was an important step it could only serve as the starting point in ongoing negotiations between all stakeholders.

"The current paper is a basis for negotiations and therefore a positive signal, but no reason to sound the all-clear yet. It is essentially a declaration of intent that now needs to be filled with life."

The aim was to now draw up legal contracts, the spokesperson said, adding questions around the funding and future strategy of TKSE had to be tackled, too.

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz and Tom Kaeckenhoff; Editing by Friederike Heine, Ludwig Burger and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)