ESSEN/DUISBURG (dpa-AFX) - In the dispute over the future of Thyssenkrupp's steel division, the Krupp Foundation has sharply rejected criticism from high-ranking IG Metall officials and spoken of "false allegations". In a letter from the foundation to IG Metall Vice President Jürgen Kerner and former IG Metall boss Detlef Wetzel, which was made available to the German Press Agency (dpa), the foundation described their statements in interviews in the "Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung" (WAZ) on Tuesday as "shameful". With this assessment, the foundation was referring to a quote from Wetzel, who had told the WAZ: "I don't think it does justice to the foundation's responsibility to place cultural interests above the fate of employees and their families."

Krupp Foundation: Kerner and Wetzel are damaging the company

"You are not only damaging us as a charitable institution and as a shareholder, but also the company as a whole," reads the letter, which is dated June 20. It was signed by Ursula Gather, Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, and the Foundation's Board members Volker Troche and Michaela Muylkens.

According to its statutes, the foundation is committed to promoting science, education, art and culture, health and sport, they write. Since 1968, however, it has done this primarily in the Ruhr region with funds of almost 700 million euros to date. "To now equate this foundation mandate with a lack of concern for thyssenkrupp employees is a distortion of the facts and a confusion of issues." Wetzel told the WAZ: "We are talking about a foundation that calls itself oriented towards the common good. But what I see above all is that it is calling for cultural activities and wants to use the money from thyssenkrupp dividends for this."

The foundation also "firmly rejected" statements made by Tekin Nasikkol, Chairman of the General Works Council of the steel division, and Kerner, who is also Deputy Chairman of the Thyssenkrupp Supervisory Board. Nasikkol told the newspaper: "The shareholders on the Supervisory Board have completely ignored co-determination in a groundbreaking decision." Nasikkol was referring to the recent decision to allow the Czech energy company EPCG to acquire a 20 percent stake in the steel division with the double vote of the Supervisory Board Chairman against the votes of the employees. Kerner had described Gather in the "WAZ" newspaper as a "great ally of Mr. Lopez", who stands with Lopez "and not with the employees".

Foundation trusts Thyssenkrupp boss López

"Our support for Miguel López's course is based on trust in his ability to successfully restructure the Group and thus ensure a secure future for the employees," the foundation responded.

As the main shareholder, the foundation had repeatedly accepted years without dividends over the decades, emphasized the foundation's management. Out of loyalty to the company, it had accepted the fact that its assets had been reduced by 80 percent due to the fall in the share price. "We have repeatedly made these sacrifices in the interests of the company's long-term stability and job security, because we believe that thyssenkrupp has a future. However, this requires change." The foundation emphasized that the foundation's entire asset since its establishment has been its stake in the company.

Steelworkers plan art project at Villa Hügel

This Friday morning, IG Metall has announced a protest art project at Villa Hügel, the former home of the Krupp industrial family in Essen. The Krupp Foundation is based in an adjacent building. The motto of the project is "Art or steel - the money must flow into secure jobs and not into the foundation!". The trade union expects 150 steel employees to take part.

The Thyssenkrupp steel division is Germany's largest steel manufacturer. The division, which employs around 27,000 people, is facing a radical change: a significant reduction in capacity is planned at the Duisburg site, which will be accompanied by job cuts. An agreement has also been reached for the energy company EPCG, owned by Czech investor Daniel Kretinsky, to acquire a 20 percent stake in the company./tob/DP/stk