Airbus cuts deal with European unions to avoid involuntary layoffs

written by Hannah Dowling | March 5, 2021
An A220-300 with Airbus livery in flight. (Source: Airbus)

Airbus has announced it has avoided the need to make any involuntary redundancies across its businesses in France, Germany and the UK.

The European planemaker said it had reached an agreement with a German trade union to protect jobs in Germany until the end of 2023.

Instead, Airbus has negotiated for voluntary redundancy programs, early retirement and internal transfers, in order to cut costs and minimise disruption.

The agreement pertains to around 55,000 people in the German Airbus workforce, and will see hours cut across the company by up to 20 per cent from 2022.

Meanwhile, 1,300 employees at Airbus Germany, as well as 1,000 workers at Airbus manufacturing subsidiary Premium Aerotec, have already taken voluntary redundancy packaged between November and February.

“Production figures have stabilised,” trade union head Holger Junge said of the agreement. “But we have not overcome the crisis.”

Earlier, in the UK, Unite members employed at the Airbus plant in Broughton voted overwhelmingly to support the introduction of a shorter working week in order to save jobs.

The plan, which was negotiated between Unite and Airbus, will see a temporary 5-10 per cent reduction in hours for staff, and eliminate the need for involuntary redundancies.

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Negotiations are still ongoing over the short-term fate of its Spanish workforce, Airbus said.

In September 2020, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said there was “no guarantee” that non-voluntary job layoffs could be avoided, as that it must cut 15,000 jobs among its 130,000-strong workforce, particularly as the COVID-19 crisis extends longer than anticipated.

The planemaker highlighted, however, that it was hoping to achieve the majority of this target through voluntary redundancies and early retirement plans.

In October 2020, Airbus signed a long-awaited labour deal with French trade unions that capped job losses at 4,200, including 3,400 in the manufacturer’s hub of Toulouse, and prevented non-voluntary redundancies.

French unions at that time also signed an agreement to implement government-backed furlough schemes for up to 30 per cent of the company’s French workforce, mostly in production line jobs.

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