By Marilyn Gerlach
FRANKFURT, July 3 (Reuters) - ThyssenKrupp AG, Germany's biggest steelmaker, may temporarily cut some workers' hours as product demand slows.
A spokesman for the steelmaking arm, ThyssenKrupp Stahl, said on Tuesday the company was in talks with the works council on whether a "Kurzarbeit" - short work - programme would be launched at some of its German factories.
Germany's short-work system was used by many struggling companies in the 2008-2009 recession, allowing them to preserve jobs by simply cutting the hours of employees when usage of plants was low.
In this scenario, a company can quickly ramp up production to satisfy customer orders if demand picks up. The state compensates the worker for some of the lost hours.
"The question on whether we will launch a Kurzarbeit or not is being studied. That means also that I cannot say anything about the timeframe, the factories affected and its extent," the ThyssenKrupp spokesman said.
"Developments in the steel market are weak," he added, declining to provide details on the utilisation rate of ThyssenKrupp's plants.
ThyssenKrupp said in May blast furnace Number 9, which it closed in January and had planned to reopen two months ago, would remain shut for the rest of the year.
The German Steel Federation said crude steel output in the domestic industry fell by 10 percent in May year on year.
Economic data on Monday highlighted the fragile state of the euro zone economy, with factories preparing for worse to come, and jobs were being cut at their fastest rate in two-and-a-half years.
Salzgitter, Germany's second-biggest steelmaker, said last week steel processors and traders involved in inventories were not placing orders because they expect business to stagnate due a deteriorating economic outlook for Germany and the euro zone.
A spokesman for Salzgitter said the company was not considering a short-work programme.
MainFirst analyst Alexander Hauenstein, who on Monday downgraded world No.1 steelmaker ArcelorMittal to "sell" from "neutral", said pricing pressure for steel products would likely continue over the summer, a seasonally weak period in the industry.
"It seems that, especially in June, not only sentiment but also pricing within (northern) Europe deteriorated and clients resisted ordering," Hauenstein said. (Editing by David Hulmes)