E.isenhüttenstadt has the blast furnace in its coat of arms, and the people of Eisenhüttenstadt are proud of it. Chris Rücker is particularly proud. He learned at the blast furnace, and there he would like to stay and continue to direct the red-hot pig iron and the slag into the right channels.
The blast furnace operator is now standing in the ArcelorMittal workshop with his hands on his hips. “We don’t think it’s okay if there won’t be a blast furnace in five years,” he says. For him, it’s not just about emotions, but also about very tangible things: “What will happen to the well-paid jobs? You always talk about the future, but at some point we have to arrive in the future. People need security. “
In front of Rücker is Annalena Baerbock, the green candidate for Chancellor. It was a pretty head-on attack, but Baerbock nods understandingly. “You need the certainty that you will continue to receive your wages.” And yes, five years is a very short time. She can see from her own children how quickly the years passed.
The steel producer wants state funding
From the point of view of the workforce, Baerbock’s proposals are also a frontal attack. She believes that the steel in Eisenhüttenstadt will have to be produced in a climate-neutral way in the future, i.e. in an electric arc furnace instead of a blast furnace. But Baerbock is not alone in the lion’s den. She agrees with the management of ArcelorMittal on the goal. “We want to take on a pioneering role in Germany and reduce CO2 emissions by up to 50 percent as early as 2026,” says Reiner Blaschek, the company’s CEO. But the conversion is expensive, without funding it would not be possible.
Baerbock’s message on this hot Friday morning in East Brandenburg should therefore not be about demands, it wants to make the company and the workforce an offer: If the Greens have their way, companies that switch to climate-neutral production should receive financial support. Baerbock calls this the “pact between industry and politics”.
But with the details of the climate protection agreements that Baerbock likes to talk about, she holds back in the factory hall. She tries not to give lectures, but to have a conversation with the workers. And she pays attention to her words. The Greens have given up talking about “dirty steel” or “dirty coal”. At some point they understood that it hurts people.
Trade unionists warn against radicalization
“We are very worried,” says one trainee. He could hardly imagine how the switch to the electric arc furnace would succeed so quickly. This requires hydrogen, but the necessary pipeline doesn’t even exist in East Brandenburg. “May I ask where you are doing your apprenticeship?” Asks Baerbock and explains that in the future, funding will have to be bundled so that no money is wasted.
Holger Wachsmann from IG Metall Ostbrandenburg is also at ArcelorMittal on Friday. He wants to be something like the mediator between the worlds. “The people in East Germany have already gone through transformation processes,” he says. In Eisenhüttenstadt, this formerly planned town around the Eisenhüttenkombinat Ost, the conversion to the market economy went well, but not elsewhere.
“The conversion has to succeed, that’s a fact,” says Wachsmann, but he warns of “even greater radicalization” if people fall by the wayside. Some of the AfD would vote here, says a worker away from the press conference, but none of the Greens. It’s good that Baerbock had come, but she could have taken a little more time.
The chairman of the works council has summarized all the questions for which there was no time on Friday in a letter that Baerbock is supposed to take to Berlin. “It would be nice if, despite the election campaign, you could find the time.”