French Airbus workers sign key restructuring deal

Major French unions on Monday signed a keenly awaited labor deal with Europe’s Airbus AIR.PA covering job reductions and furloughs for production workers affected by coronavirus-blighted demand for passenger jets.

After three months of talks, unions representing a majority of the planemaker’s French workers signed an agreement paving the way for 4,200 job reductions in France, including 3,400 in Toulouse, Europe’s aerospace capital where Airbus is based.

Unions say the agreement will prevent compulsory redundancies, although Chief Executive Guillaume Faury recently warned staff that voluntary measures would not be enough.

Unions also signed an agreement implementing government-backed furlough schemes for up to 30% of French employees mainly involved in production work.

In total, Airbus is looking for 15,000 job cuts among its more than 130,000 staff and has reaffirmed those plans after aviation markets failed to recover as quickly as expected.

But it has said 1,500 jobs could be spared if government backing remains for furloughs and 500 others could be saved by French government funding on a new carbon-free aircraft project.

The agreements take effect on Jan. 1.

“During the restructuring, we have reached our goal of having zero compulsory layoffs, which was our red line,” Jean-François Knepper, negotiator for the Force Ouvriere union, said.

Any shortfalls in the number of people agreeing to leave, compared with Airbus’ target, could be met by prolonging the sign-up period or restricting salaries for a further year, he added.

Airbus workers have until Dec. 31 to sign up for voluntary redundancy, but that could be extended to March 31.

The minority CGT union refused to back the package, saying it failed to rule out compulsory layoffs or help most staff.