As Airbus, a European consortium supplying commercial airplanes, announces plans to lay off 10,000 of its workforce, the bickering between the European countries behind it continues unabated.
According to German magazine Der Spiegel, “squabbling” has involved the location of production sites, distribution of jobs, and future political control of the company. Many say that nationalistic competitiveness and concerns about control of the company have undermined its A380 program, which is having major problems, to the point where it has lost one major customer, FedEx, and the other, UPS, is threatening to cancel if there are further delays.
Meanwhile, problems at Airbus’ U.S. competitor, Boeing, are being cleared up and the advantage that the European company had several years ago has vanished, as the 787 Dreamliner is being well received, and as a smaller and cheaper airplane is meeting market requirements for which Airbus currently has no offering, although they are developing a version of the A350 as they play catch-up.
German media have reported that French unions have been lobbying for a greater role for their factories, and a shift in management nationality is provoking concern as well. Currently, plans are being floated for A380 work to be done more in France, and smaller planes in Germany, with further work in the UK and Spain. Germany, which currently has the only facility capable of working with the new carbon fiber based structures, is concerned that with that division, the German aerospace industry will lose its competitive edge in new technologies.
Along with factory locations, jobs are a major issue. A French election is coming up, and the Socialist candidate is saying that, if elected, she will forbid the planned layoffs. How she plans to do that is not clear. Head of the European Metalworkers Federation has indicated that they will not accept any job losses either. French unions have also used various means to protest job losses, and with the troubled A380 program on the brink of disaster, the company cannot afford the problems a labor action would bring.
In Germany, DaimlerChrysler, which is facing financial problems with its American subsidiary Chrysler, is planning to divest its share of the Airbus parent company. Germany is working to make sure that it does not lose influence in the company when that happens.
With so many factors pulling the company in all directions, the A380 program in trouble and compensation to customers because of delays draining cash sorely needed for reinvestment, European government intervention would be a possible solution, but Washington has indicated its opposition to European government aid for the company.