Airbus workers begin Europe-wide protests

16th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 16, 2007 (AFP) - The first striking Airbus workers gathered in front of company headquarters in southern France on Friday at the start of a Europe-wide day of action against plans by the struggling aircraft manufacturer to slash 10,000 jobs.

PARIS, March 16, 2007 (AFP) - The first striking Airbus workers gathered in front of company headquarters in southern France on Friday at the start of a Europe-wide day of action against plans by the struggling aircraft manufacturer to slash 10,000 jobs.

 Trade unions have predicted that thousands of staff at Airbus sites in Britain, France, Germany and Spain will walk off the job in the latest battle against the company's "Power8" restructuring scheme.

Such co-ordinated Europe-wide protests organised by trade unions are exceptional.

About a thousand employees assembled in Toulouse, southwest France, early in the day to protest against the restructuring plans unveiled by the plane maker at the end of February, an AFP reporter witnessed.

A senior official from the powerful Force Ouvriere trade union, Jean-Francois Knepper, said he expected several thousand people for the demonstration.

Airbus workers, many dressed in work clothes and waving flags or carrying balloons, were observing a two-hour strike.

"Four thousand people would be a success," said Knepper.

Airbus unveiled a radical restructuring plan at the end of February that foresees the loss of 10,000 jobs, the sale of factories and increased outsourcing to sub-contractors.

The cuts 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.

In Hamburg, Germany, the powerful IG Metall union said it expected 10,000 demonstrators to converge on the city centre.

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.

French trade unions organised the first action against the plan 10 days ago when about 12,000-15,000 people gathered in Toulouse.

A further 2,000 people assembled at each of the three other Airbus sites in France and work stoppages took place in Chester, Britain, and Puerto Real in Spain.

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.

Announcement of the restructuring on February 28 came amid tension between French and German interests, which dominate the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), over where cuts should fall.

It was also followed by signs of bickering between French and German unions.

"We must not make the mistake of squabbling amongst ourselves -- what is important is to resist the Power8 plan together," the IG Metall union said Thursday.

Airbus on Thursday received a much-needed boost to its business and credibility when two customers pledged new orders worth 23 billion euros (30 billion dollars) at catalogue prices.

Qatar Airways said it planned to buy 80 A350 jets, one of the biggest orders in the history of Airbus, and Russian airline Aeroflot said it would sign a deal for 22 more of the same aircraft.

Airbus launched the 10-billion-euro A350XWB project last year to rival Boeing in the mid-sized jet segment of the market which the US manufacturer has come to dominate with its 777 and extremely popular new 787 Dreamliner.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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