UPDATE 1-Thousands of German steelworkers protest to defend jobs

* 45,000 steelworkers take part in protests nationwide

* IG Metall union demands job guarantees in case of steel
mergers

* Economy Minister Gabriel vows to fight for industry in
Brussels

(Adds German EconMin, Thyssenkrupp works council chief
comments)

By Georgina Prodhan and Tom Käckenhoff

DUISBURG, Germany, April 11 Tens of thousands of
German steelworkers took to the streets on Monday, demanding
more action against the dumping of cheap Chinese imports and
greater job protection amid uncertainty over the future of
Thyssenkrupp’s steel business.

The powerful German IG Metall union is demanding job
guarantees if Thyssenkrupp merges its steel business with that
of India’s Tata Steel or another player – a prospect
that has become more likely in the past weeks.

Workers fear they could face a similar fate to their peers
in Britain, where Tata has put its entire steel business up for
sale, endangering thousands of jobs.

More than 45,000 took part in protests throughout Germany,
IG Metall said.

“I have another 39 years left to work. I don’t want to be
left on the street,” said Ingo, a 28-year-old Thyssenkrupp
employee, who identified himself only by his first name, at a
march towards Thyssenkrupp’s steel headquarters in Duisburg in
Germany’s Ruhr Valley industrial heartland.

Social Democrat Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, addressing
a crowd of more than 17,000 protesters in Duisburg, vowed to
fight for the German steel industry in Brussels, where the
industry fears new climate regulation, that will make steel
production uneconomical, and more favourable trade terms for
China.

“We have nothing against China getting market economy status
but only if it behaves like a market economy,” he said,
referring to the coveted World Trade Organisation status that
China is expected to attain in December.

That would make it much harder for Europe to impose
anti-dumping duties on Chinese goods, including steel.

The European Union has set import duties on some Chinese
steel products and has started anti-dumping investigations into
others under pressure from Britain, France and Germany but will
not impose any new measures until November.

Steelmaking in Europe has dwindled over the past decades as
heavy industry has declined while other countries, in particular
China, have ramped up production, selling excess steel on world
markets at prices European producers cannot match.

That has led to calls for capacity cuts in Europe, a measure
that producers believe will only be achieved through mergers.

Guenter Back, head of Thyssenkrupp Steel Europe’s central
works council, warned management to include workers in any
consolidation plans or face mass walkouts.

“We are not prepared to be bystanders if you are in your
back rooms making plans for us,” he told the Duisburg rally.

The steel industry employs 87,000 people directly in Germany
– which unlike many other EU countries still has a strong
manufacturing base. In total, it keeps 3.5 million people in
employment in related industries and services, Gabriel said.

In Britain, Tata Steel agreed a deal to sell one of its main
steelworks on Monday, saving 4,000 jobs, but thousands of other
jobs remain at risk at its other UK operations.

($1 = 0.8786 euros)

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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