It was a shock for the 2,400 employees of two traditional pipe mills: their jobs would be gone in a year and a half at the latest. The management sees this as an inevitable step.

After the announced closure of two pipe plants of the French group Vallourec in North Rhine-Westphalia, the workforce expressed their deep disappointment.

Almost 1000 employees came to an information event of the works council on the Düsseldorf factory premises on Thursday, as announced by IG Metall. Small crosses with tea lights that were set up should visualize a cemetery mood. A doll hung on a large cross, which was intended to symbolize the workforce as a whole.

“Vallourec has given up on us and now wants to get rid of us as soon as possible,” said works council member Vilson Gegic at the event. But you will “continue to fight” to get concessions from the management.

Düsseldorf and Mülheim an der Ruhr

On Wednesday evening, the French group announced the closure of the two traditional German plants in Düsseldorf and Mülheim an der Ruhr. “Economically, this is unavoidable,” Vallourec Germany boss Herbert Schaaff defended the move to the press on Thursday morning – the German business was loss-making.

There were purchase offers from three financial investors, but these were “disappointing” and did not contain a sustainable concept. Industrial groups, on the other hand, were not willing to take over the plants with a total of 2400 employees, 1650 of them in Düsseldorf and 750 in Mülheim an der Ruhr.

According to Manager Schaaff, a continuation concept had been examined in which the staff would have been cut by at least a third. According to internal forecasts, the concept would not have been “economically viable”. “We could have expected a positive result in four or five years at the earliest.”

Union demands solid social wage agreement

A little later, at the works council event, IG Metaller Karsten Kaus vented his dissatisfaction with the company’s course. “The sales process was a farce and we doubt that the proposed continuation concept has even been examined in detail.” The union is now demanding “a solid social wage agreement to cushion social hardship as best as possible”. Extensive severance programs are needed. “And if we don’t get anywhere with talking, then everything is prepared for the labor dispute,” said Kaus.

The two plants used to belong to Mannesmannrohren-Werke AG. The Düsseldorf plant in the Rath district has existed since 1899, the plant in Mülheim since 1966. Vallourec Germany had already closed another location in Düsseldorf in 2020. Since 2015, the company has already cut around 1,400 jobs in this country.

The French group wants to continue operating a small research center in Riesa, Saxony, but is giving up its German production. The business with pipes for oil and gas fields is to be relocated to Brazil, while the business with pipes for mechanical and plant engineering is to be discontinued. “It’s a strategic decision that you have to accept,” said Schaaff.