DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - The government of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to engineering and steel group Thyssenkrupp, has come out in favour of the group's planned merger of its European steel operations with those of Tata Steel.
"The potential merger with Tata is an opportunity to tie up with a strong partner in Europe," the state's Economy Minister Andreas Pinkwart, a member of the pro-business Free Democratic Party, said in a parliamentary session on Wednesday.
Members of the state's previous government, a coalition of the Social Democrats and the Greens, had voiced criticism over the planned merger, warning of a potential loss of influence over corporate decisions that could affect jobs.
Fearing that thousands of jobs could be cut as a result of a tie-up, unions have called on the new government to seek influence at Thyssenkrupp's largest shareholder, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach Foundation.
"The position that state intervention in corporate decisions is a no-go supports a strategy that is driven by financial markets, and the people are being let down," Knut Giesler at IG Metall, Germany's largest trade union, said.
Thyssenkrupp's supervisory board will meet on Sept. 24 to discuss the planned joint venture, Chief Executive Heinrich Hiesinger's preferred option to restructure the group's steel business, whose roots go back more than 200 years.
(Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff; Writing by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Maria Sheahan)