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Unions set to fight as Airbus moves to close Spanish factory

written by Hannah Dowling | May 21, 2021
An Airbus A380 at the 2014 Farnborough Airshow. (Airbus)
An Airbus A380 at the 2014 Farnborough Airshow. (Airbus)

Airbus is moving to close its Puerto Real factory in Spain as a part of its post-COVID recovery plan, in what would be the planemaker’s first major factory closure in the company’s 50-year history.

The European planemaker is in discussions with unions to combine operations with its nearby Bay of Cadiz facility, which currently focuses on its defence and space manufacturing divisions, rather than commercial aircraft.

As it stands, the Puerto Real plant employs around 350 workers, while the Bay of Cadiz factory has about 460 employees.

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The current proposal aims to avoid compulsory redundancies in Airbus’ Spain-based operations, and is still subject to final union negotiations on matters like investment.

Operations at the robot-assisted Puerto Real factory have plummeted as Airbus completed the construction of its final four-engined A380. The factory previously catered to part of the A380’s tail assembly.

Airbus as a whole has also suffered in light of an unprecedented drop in demand for new jets amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unions have long lobbied against the possibility of the plant closure, warning that the closure of Puerto Real could have a significant impact on the local economy in Cadiz, which currently has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Spain, with one in four adults out of work.

As such, union representatives have said they will continue to fight against the closure, as workers fear the economic impact of shuttering a plant that provides hundreds of high-tech jobs in an area where highly skilled jobs are scarce.

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“We won’t allow the company to close any plants until we see investments, new work packages, and higher levels of employment than pre-pandemic,” said Juan Antonio Vazquez of the UGT union.

“We’ll work with the government to favour an industrial climate which pushes strategic sectors in places like Cadiz, to maintain both the local economy and the whole supply chain,” he added.

An Airbus spokesperson said that no decision had been officially made on which plant in Cadiz would cease production, but said that Puerto Real would in any event have a role in the development of future industrial technology to be used across its European shop floors.

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