DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Verdi, one of Germany’s most powerful labor unions, has called “unacceptable” plans for forced layoffs at Uniper, the power generation and energy trading unit of E.ON (EONGn.DE), demanding a clear future strategy ahead of a planned spin-off in autumn.
“Management needs to make a clear statement about the future strategy of the group and the protection of jobs,” Andreas Scheidt, board member at Verdi, Germany’s second-largest trade union, told Reuters on Friday.
Scheidt, also deputy chairman of the supervisory boards at both E.ON and Uniper, said all companies were affected by the current crisis that has gripped the power industry, saying Uniper was not the only company that suffered.
Years of falling wholesale power prices have taken their toll on German utilities, forcing them to cut thousands of jobs and dividends, shut down power plants and break up their businesses in the hope it will ensure their survival.
E.ON, Germany’s largest utility, is planning to spin off more than 53 percent of Uniper, which employs 14,000 and owns hydroelectric, coal- and gas-fired power stations, energy trading as well as stakes in gas fields and pipelines.
The move is aimed at separating E.ON’s regulated and stable assets from Uniper’s more volatile generation business, hoping to attract investors that have dumped utility stocks in light of falling profits and payouts.
E.ON’s plans, first unveiled in late 2014, had been kept secret for months, mainly due to the support of E.ON’s works council representatives that were hoping the spin-off would protect jobs.
Last week, Uniper CEO Klaus Schaefer flagged notable job cuts, not ruling out compulsory layoffs as part of the restructuring which is expected to generate savings of 500 million euros ($558 million).
“The remark that compulsory layoffs cannot be ruled out is baffling. It’s unacceptable,” Scheidt said, adding there were clear labor agreements that excluded forced redundancies at E.ON and Uniper until 2020.
“We expect management to honor these agreements.”
Writing by Christoph Steitz, editing by David Evans