|Airbus confirms to cut plants, 10,000 jobs: union By Nicolas Fichot |
1 hour, 20 minutes ago
TOULOUSE (Reuters) - A shake-up at Airbus will slash 10,000 jobs and sell all or part of six factories, French trade union CGT confirmed on Wednesday, as workers protested and politicians hailed a hard-fought compromise.
Airbus Chief Executive Louis Gallois outlined steps which will include cutting 5,000 Airbus staff and 5,000 workers contracted from other firms, CGT official Xavier Petrachi said following a meeting with Gallois.
Unions in the two countries to be hardest hit -- France and Germany -- have threatened strikes and protests should Airbus close plants or force redundancies.
There were protests at Airbus factories in France at Meaulte and St. Nazaire and the head of the European works council warned of wider walkouts.
"It will be a (call to) strike but perhaps a strike is not enough. Airbus is following the route of Boeing to more outsourcing," European works council Chairman Jean-Francois Knepper told France's LCI TV before the meeting with Gallois.
The CGT said three plants are to be sold outright, including two at Varel and Laupheim in Germany and one in St. Nazaire, France.
Airbus will look for investors to take partial stakes in three more -- Filton in England, Nordenham in Germany and Meaulte in France.
Where coveted work will go on Airbus' next new plane, the A350, has also been decided, the CGT said.
The headquarters in Toulouse, France, will assemble the A350 in return for letting the plant in Hamburg, Germany, assemble the successor to the smaller A320 airliner.
Hamburg in the meantime will also get more of the production of the current A320 series, the CGT said.
The details confirmed information from industry sources reported by Reuters earlier.
Airbus' Power8 restructuring plan was first mooted in October and sparked a split between France and Germany over the distribution of job losses, and the placement of future ones.
Germany said on Wednesday the planned job cuts and factory had succeeded in maintaining a balance between France and Germany.
Economy Minister Michael Glos had briefed the cabinet on a first outline of the plan which succeeded in maintaining an equal burden in terms of cuts and future opportunities, government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters.
Sources close to the talks said British and Spanish leaders had also fought hard to safeguard thousands of Airbus jobs in their countries.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed a victory for the Airbus plant at Filton, one of two in Britain, telling parliament on Wednesday that it had won coveted carbon fiber composites work for the wing of the A350.
"I understand Filton is set to secure manufacture of key wing components on the A350 and that will represent valuable new capability in the UK," Blair told parliament.
SHARING JOB LOSSES
Observers had predicted that the planemaker, run by former French railways boss Gallois, would attempt to ease the impact of the cuts by balancing "core" Airbus jobs and outside contractors.
He is to formally announce the plan, dubbed Power8, at Airbus headquarters in Toulouse at 1400 GMT.
The CGT did not provide a breakdown of where job cuts would land, but industry sources said France and Germany would split about 8,000 job cuts, with 1,500 set for Britain and about 500 for Spain.
Still, forced dismissals are likely to be avoided, as Airbus heeds calls from French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and other leading political figures to avoid sackings workers in the run-up to French elections in April and May.
Socialist candidate Segolene Royal pledged to call for a freeze on job cuts and consult German Chancellor Angela Merkel on further steps, if she wins France's presidential elections.
Unions have made plain that protests and work stoppages could hit Airbus production lines if management closes plants or insists on forced job cuts.
"We totally oppose the closure of any site and we won't accept any firings," said European Metalworkers Federation head Peter Scherrer after a gathering of Airbus unions on Tuesday.
French union Force Ouvriere said selling St. Nazaire or Meaulte would be tantamount to a declaration of war.
The CGT announcement confirmed St. Nazaire-villes is to be sold and outside investors brought in to partly own Meaulte.
British firm GKN Plc, which has been mooted as a possible investor in Airbus' plant at Filton, declined to comment on Wednesday.
Airbus hopes to sell factories to lower costs after a two-year delay in delivering the A380 superjumbo put a 5-billion-euro hole in expected earnings at parent firm EADS.
Slow progress on its next plane, the A350, also underscores the need to reform as rival Boeing's 787 model is set to beat it to market by five years.
Germany had held out for some A350 assembly, but may have achieved the solution it wanted as A320 jobs may be a safer bet if the larger A350 fails to catch up with Boeing's hot-selling 787.
Britain faces job losses alongside its European partners but winning composites work on the A350 was a far better outcome than some had feared after British firm BAE Systems opted to sell its 20-percent stake in Airbus last year.
"We got a lot more than it looked like at Christmas," said one UK official who declined to be identified.
EADS shares were down 0.28 percent at 25.38 euros in choppy trade as of 1337 GMT, outperforming a Paris CAC-40 index which was down 1.14 percent.
(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher, Kerstin Doerr, Marcel Michelson, Jason Neely, Rodolphe Landais, Dan Lalor, Madeline Chambers and Paul Hughes)