By Maytaal Angel and Christoph Steitz
LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Tata Steel's European labour representatives said they remain unconvinced by a planned joint venture with Thyssenkrupp, adding there were still numerous details that needed to be hammered out before they could endorse a deal.
The remarks by Tata Steel Europe's European Works Council (EWC) threatens a further delay to a deal to combine Thyssenkrupp's steel operations with Tata's European steel business, a pact which has not been signed because of resistance from Dutch workers.
"The EWC acknowledges there is an industrial rationale for pursuing this JV, but with the matters outstanding the EWC remains unconvinced that this partnership with Thyssenkrupp would be in the best interests of the Tata Steel Europe's operations and the employees we represent," it said in a statement.
The planned transaction would combine Thyssenkrupp's and Tata Steel's European steel operations to create the continent's second-largest steelmaker after ArcelorMittal with sales of 15 billion euros ($17.7 billion).
The EWC said Thyssenkrupp had been unwilling to engage and help its advisers understand the German firm's aspirations and plans with regards to the join venture, adding the financial structure of the deal remains a "work in progress".
A Tata Steel spokesman told Reuters: "We will continue to engage in constructive dialogue with our employee representatives throughout the process of creating the proposed joint venture."
He added that Tata Steel is committed to delivering the joint venture without the need for compulsory redundancies.
Tata's Dutch works council said in April it still had "major reservations" over the joint venture, even though Tata promised limited job losses and an independent position for the Dutch operations within the new company.
The EWC, which oversees all the Tata Steel Europe trade unions, said its advisers had recommended it oppose the current business plan because it prioritises shareholder dividends over the long-term development of the join venture.
Thyssenkrupp was not immediately available to comment.
Tata Steel Netherlands reached a preliminary agreement with Dutch unions in March, after promising job losses would be limited to between 300 and 400 supporting functions while excluding any forced redundancies until 2026.