Guillaume Faury, CEO of European planemaker Airbus, has said there is “no guarantee” that non-voluntary job layoffs can be avoided, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to decimate the aviation industry.
With airlines around the world keeping their fleet grounded amid a global travel slump and ongoing border restrictions, many airlines have delayed or cancelled their upcoming aircraft orders, which is now taking a massive toll on the manufacturers.
Airbus had previously said it would need to shed up to 15,000 jobs worldwide, however was hoping to achieve the majority of this target through voluntary redundancies and early retirement plans.
Faury spoke with French radio station RTL to convey the seriousness of the impact of the downturn on Airbus, warning that the whole company is at risk unless drastic cost-cutting measures are taken.
“The crisis is existential. Our life as a business is potentially at risk if we don’t take the right measures. We are taking them,” he said.
“The situation is so serious, and we are faced with so much uncertainty, that I think no one can guarantee there won’t be compulsory redundancies if we’re to adapt to the situation, especially if it evolves further.”
Despite this being the case, Faury said that the company will do everything it can to avoid mass compulsory layoffs.
“On the other hand, what I say clearly is that we have a lot of work to do, we will do everything we can to avoid arriving at that point,” he said.
“There are lots of measures we can take between voluntary redundancies and compulsory redundancies.”
Faury’s comments come just over a week after the chief executive circulated a letter to Airbus’ 130,000 staff, warning them to prepare for imminent involuntary layoffs.
The letter suggested that the summer travel season was more subdued than anticipated, which has slowed recovery in the aviation sector.
“I owe it to you to be transparent: it’s unlikely that voluntary departures will be enough,” Faury said in the note to employees.
“Unfortunately, the recovery in airline traffic over the summer period has not been at the level the industry was counting on.
“We must now prepare for a crisis that will probably be even deeper and longer than the previous scenarios suggested.”
At the time, a French workers’ union accused Faury and Airbus of deliberately provoking staff anxieties ahead of labour negotiations.