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Airbus to Brief Unions on Job Cuts

European planemaker Airbus will unveil further details of its Power8 restructuring programme to its unions on Tuesday, hoping to dampen nationalist rivalries blamed for superjumbo production delays.

The company is in the midst of efforts to cut 10,000 jobs and sell factories after a two-year delay in deliveries of the world's largest airliner, the A380, and the external pressure of a weak dollar drove Airbus into the red last year.

Announcing broad outlines in February, Airbus President Louis Gallois called for integration beween the planemaker's teams spread across France, Germany, Britain and Spain and vowed to stamp out nationalist in-fighting that he deemed "poison."

At Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France, on Tuesday, Gallois and number two Fabrice Bregier are expected to offer more details of a newly integrated structure in briefings to the firm's European works council, sources close to the talks said.

That will be followed by national consultations starting with a French union meeting on Wednesday and formal negotiations with German unions, a necessary step under laws in both states.

Most unions oppose plans to cut jobs and fully or partly sell six of Airbus's 16 European factories, though the planemaker maintains it can avoid compulsory redundancies.

"Centres of Excellence"

Under outlines of the new structure announced in February, Airbus will be organised around a reduced total of four "Centres of Excellence" cutting across national lines and marching to a rhythm set by central teams of programme leaders and engineers.

Under such a structure, the power of national subsidiaries is expected to be trimmed. National rivalries were widely blamed for Airbus's failure to introduce common design tools in France and Germany that led to wiring difficulties on the A380.

The shake-up comes after the discovery of faults in the A380's wiring process repeatedly delayed Europe's biggest industrial project and eventually blew a 5 billion euro ($6.73 billion) hole in expected future earnings at Airbus parent EADS.

Although no public announcement is expected before Wednesday, the new "Airbus spirit" fostered by Gallois, who added control of Airbus to his other role as co-chief executive of EADS last year, is already evident in Toulouse.

The planemaker no longer answers questions about the nationality of workers involved in specific projects, saying such statistics are no longer considered helpful.

Airbus plans to cut 2.1 billion euros in annual operating costs from 2010 and a further 5 billion euros in cash as a result of the Power8 plans, which sparked protests in France and Germany and political tensions over the location of job losses.

Airbus has said it must prevent a repeat of wiring glitches which have led to engineers poring over batches of cables stretched out on trestle tables in the giant A380 assembly hall, before wiring up the first 25 planes effectively by hand.

The restructuring also aims to streamline work on the A350, the next Airbus model which has been outsold by Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, by switching 50 percent of the tasks to outsourcing.

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