Airbus Workers Strike to Protest Restructuring Plan
Workers at Airbus plants in France, Germany and Spain staged strikes and protests Friday maintaining a united front against a restructuring plan the troubled aircraft maker said would slash 10,000 jobs across Europe.
Thousands joined Friday's protests at Airbus facilities around the continent followed a similar movement last week by at least 12,000 workers.
Friday's protests hit a company reeling from management and financial crises that have caused parent company EADS to cut its profit forecast by more than 5 billion euros ($6.6 billion). Those troubles led to the Power8 restructuring plan, which would also spin off or close six Airbus factories.
Unions said members at the company's French and German plants stopped work Friday. In Spain 9,000 workers at Airbus' three factories and other sites owned by its parent company European Aeronautic Defence & Space, or EADS, were expected to walk off the job for an hour.
In Toulouse in southern France, thousands of striking workers from various French Airbus sites protested in front of the company's headquarters. Organizers said some 7,000 people turned out for the protest, though police estimates put the number closer to 2,000.
Organizer Jean-Francois Knepper warned of "even tougher" protest actions if management doesn't consider the unions' own restructuring proposals.
In the northern German port of Hamburg, union organizers said some 15,000 people gathered for the main protest, blowing whistles and waving small cardboard airplanes. Many had arrived by bus from across Germany to attend.
"David vs. Goliath: We are ready to fight," and "We Stand Together" read placards carried by protesters, their faces tense and drawn.
"The mood at Airbus is bad, nobody really knows what will happen next," said Holger Ruschinski, an employee of the Airbus factory in Hamburg. "Our motivation level has dropped to the cellar."
More than 2,000 people gathered outside the Airbus plant in the southwestern German town of Laupheim, brandishing placards decrying the planned sale of the factory, the IG Metall industrial union said.
At an Airbus factory in northern French town of Meaulte, workers staged a 2-hour walkout.
In Paris, some 100 people staged a small demonstration in front of the French headquarters of EADS. Other smaller demonstrations were planned outside Spanish production sites.
In France, the demonstrations have thrust the Airbus restructuring into the presidential election campaign, with candidates making competing promises of government intervention to bolster the planemaker.
On Thursday, Airbus won a welcome boost with an announcement by Russian state flag carrier Aeroflot that it will acquire 22 Airbus A350 widebody jets. Qatar Airways also confirmed Thursday it is in talks with Airbus on a purchase of 80 A350s.
EADS has said that a large, unspecified share of the cost of the A350 program will be met from its own cash resources and through cost-cutting at Airbus, while suppliers will be invited to contribute through risk-sharing investments.
EADS' largest shareholders have failed to agree on where to draw the rest of the cash from. EADS, Airbus and the governments of France, Germany, Britain and Spain must decide what if any public aid the A350 program will receive. A renewed aid pledge could inflame a long-running EU-US trade dispute over subsidies to Boeing and Airbus.