Tens of thousands of workers at Airbus are expected to walk off the job Friday (today) in a highly unusual show of Europe-wide union power against plans by the struggling aircraft manufacturer to slash 10,000 posts.
Trade unions predict tens of thousands of staff at all Airbus sites in Europe will down tools and hold protest meetings to increase pressure against the company's "Power8" restructuring scheme. Such co-ordinated Europe-wide protests organised by trade unions are highly unusual. They were called following wildcat stoppages previously reported on libcom.org which swept France and Germany.
In Hamburg, Germany, the powerful IG Metall union said it expected 10,000 demonstrators to converge on the city centre. An earlier day of protest in France on March 6 brought 12,000-15,000 people into the streets of Toulouse, southwest France, where Airbus is based, and unions there were expecting similar support.
In Britain, the Transport and General Workers' Union expected several thousand people to back a demonstration in Chester, near a factory at Broughton in Wales. And in Spain, two unions, the CCOO and the UGT, have called on 9,000 workers at seven sites to protest.
Unions here issued a joint statement condemning "this restructuring plan which will have dramatic consequences but is not justified." One union source objected in particular to "jobs being cut when work in hand is overflowing." The protests are set against campaigning for a presidential election in France in which unemployment is a hot subject.
The company says that the crisis is "extremely serious" and that it can no longer delay making cost savings. But there is concern among analysts over whether the Airbus parent company, the aerospace group EADS, and Airbus will in fact be able to implement the full plan.
The cuts, together with the total or partial disposal of six sites, are intended to save 5.0 billion euros (6.6 billion dollars) by 2010 and pull the company out of a crisis caused by delays to the A380 superjumbo program, seen as critical to Airbus' bid to catch up with US rival Boeing.
EADS last week published results revealing a first-ever operating loss at Airbus of 572 million euros (752 million dollars) in 2006 in contrast to a profit of 2.3 billion euros in 2005. But the group is also assuring customers and investors that it does not face an imminent cash crisis.
Announcement of details of the restructuring on February 28 came as campaigning in presidential election in France in April and May intensified and amid tension between French and German interests over where cuts should fall. It was also followed by signs of bickering between French and German unions.
Brokers Goldman Sachs, issuing a recommendation to its clients to buy shares in EADS, suggested on Monday that the "reduced" expectation for EADS "provides both a suitable backdrop for negotiations about Power8 with unions and politicians, especially in France."