Union demands rapid German aid for stricken utility Uniper

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FRANKFURT, July 6 (Reuters) - German labour union Verdi called on Wednesday for Berlin to step in quickly to rescue utility Uniper (UN01.DE), which has been pushed to the brink by a the Russian export gas supply crisis.

Uniper, majority-owned by Finnish state-owned utility Fortum (FORTUM.HE) and a top buyer of Russian gas by volume, last week became the first German energy company to raise the alarm over scarce gas and soaring prices.

"The situation at Uniper is very serious," Verdi board member Christoph Schmitz told Reuters in an interview.

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Verdi is not only an important union at Uniper, which employs 5,000 people in Germany, but also represents workers along the gas supply chain, in areas such as in storage and distribution, whose livelihood depends on the utility.

"A real shareholding by the federal government, not just collateral and loans, would be a clear signal that there is a sustained guarantee of energy supply security," Schmitz said.

Unlike others in the sector, Uniper received more than half of its total gas purchases from Russia, whereas similar firms have a relatively higher input from suppliers such as Norway or the Netherlands in their portfolios.

Uniper faces losses as it must cover missing Russian exports resulting from the Ukraine crisis with more expensive gas bought on the spot market. read more

Schmitz also said that Finland's Fortum should contribute to any bailout, or at least not block any rescue plans.

An adviser to Finland's prime minister said on Tuesday that Fortum was negotiating with the German government over Uniper's problems. Fortum declined to comment on the talks.

Fortum's share in Uniper amounted to 78% in December, while the Finnish company itself is majority state-owned.

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Reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff; Writing by Vera Eckert; Editing by Alexander Smith

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