German Shipyard Workers Protest Takeover

BERLIN (AP) -- Hundreds of workers at an ailing shipbuilder in eastern Germany protested Friday against their new employer, a former Russian energy minister.

Workers at the Wadan shipyards in Wismar and Warnemuende, two beach towns on the Baltic Sea, want to keep their old employment contracts and object to likely job cuts under the new owner, Igor Yusufov.

The workers' union, IG Metall, broke off contract negotiations Tuesday, saying in a statement that the new Yusufov conditions include nearly a quarter lower wages and shorter vacation time and are unacceptable.

Union officials also said that Yusufov only wants to keep workers currently building two ferries for Sweden's Stena Line. The terms of his euro40 billion ($59 billion) deal outlined last month stated that about 1,600 of 2,500 jobs at the yards are to be kept. A new company called Nordic Yards will be founded to run the facilities, building specialized ships such as ice breakers and tankers for liquefied natural gas.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the terms of the takeover in August during a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and expressed confidence in the deal. The German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania provided more than euro35 billion in credit as part of the deal.

Yusufov, 53, also sits on the management board of Russian energy giant Gazprom.

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