According to the BBC and Businessweek, large protests are taking place in France, Germany, the UK and Spain to counter the Airbus restructuring plan called “Power8.” The BBC website, as of noon Friday, reported 10,000 participants at the main Hamburg worksite in Germany, while the IG Metall Union spoke of a gathering of 25,000 at that location, gathered to demonstrate “for the future of Airbus.” Protesters were said to have been bussed in from other parts of Germany as well.
The IG Metall site also spoke of another 10,000 protesting in France, and emphasized their solidarity with coworkers, and desire to find a solution which secured their future as well.
Airbus has been reporting losses, and has produced a restructuring plan which involves closing or spinning off a number of factories in various countries, and laying off around 10,000 workers. Delays in the flagship A380 program have cost the company penalty payments as well as customers, with both Fedex and UPS backing away from their orders as time frames shifted into the future. Businessweek points out that other problems, including management and financial crises, have reduced the profit forecast of parent company EADS by 5bn euros, making it harder to add additional support for Airbus.
U.S. competitor Boeing has emerged from difficult period, and has been producing new models which are selling well, such as the 787. Airbus is also working on several lines based on the small A350 model, and has received good news in recent days in the form of an announcement by Aeroflot that it would purchase 22 planes, and Qatar airways is in talks about purchasing 80 A350s as well, according to Businessweek.
According to the BBC, a weakness in orders and high costs in producing the A380 and A350 are making it difficult for Airbus to maintain its level of expenses, and the staff reductions and facility changes should save 5bn euros by 2010. The company has said that half of the personnel cuts would be amongst temporary workers and subcontractors, and they did not plan to force layoffs.
The union leaders from all four countries have said, according to the BBC, that “This restructuring plan will have dramatic consequences but is not justified.” They apparently are offering an alternative plan.
The Airbus and union actions are playing a big role in the French election, with presidential candidates pledging to use government intervention to help solve the problem. The U.S. has made clear that government aid to Airbus would rekindle the battle over Airbus-Boeing government subsidies, creating further problems, and the delays caused by the unions are likely to produce further delays, while orders have already been canceled because of delays in plane production.