Airbus Staff Threaten Delivery Delays To Save Jobs

February 2, 2007

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Workers at Airbus in Germany threatened on Friday to hold up aircraft deliveries and thousands staged protests to fight for their jobs as the European planemaker prepares to embark on a restructuring plan.

More than 24,000 Airbus workers, suppliers and supporters held demonstrations to save the planemaker's seven German plants, the IG Metall union and Airbus said.

"If we see that we are not achieving our aims, the company will have to revise its delivery schedules for 2007," Airbus Germany works council head Ruediger Luetjen said.

EADS will unveil a restructuring plan this month after it was plunged into crisis last year when wiring problems delayed production and deliveries of its A380 superjumbo aircraft, costing almost EUR5 billion euros (USD$6.5 billion) in future profits.

Unions fear Airbus's parent EADS will cut up to 8,000 jobs in Germany, where the aircraft manufacturer employs about 22,300 people. Up to 8,000 supplier jobs are also seen under threat.

The protests at Airbus plants in Hamburg, Bremen, Laupheim and Varel could spread across Europe, the European Metalworkers' Federation (EMF) warned.

"Today's demonstrations in Germany mark only the beginning of a possible Europe-wide wave of protest should the EADS management plan mass layoffs and site closures," EMF General Secretary Peter Scherrer said in a statement.

French unions also pledged on Friday to fight job cuts at Airbus and appealed for state help to shore up the planemaker.

About 100 Airbus workers protested outside a government office in Toulouse, southwest France, where the multinational planemaker is based, voicing fears over reports that up to 10,000 European jobs including many in France may be axed.

Hamburg is responsible for about half of Airbus single-aisle jet deliveries, which are the main revenue driver at Airbus.

Hamburg Airbus officials said last week a single-aisle jet is produced on average every 9.3 working hours. Airbus plans to boost total single-aisle deliveries to 36 a month from 32 a month by end-2008 and industry officials say it is considering raising this to 40 a month.

The German government fears there could be extensive job cuts to Airbus factories in Germany if the existing balance of power between France and Germany changes. Through the current shareholder structure French and German ownership is equal.

Airbus's works council head in Hamburg, Horst Niehus, urged fair treatment across the company's sites.

"Anyone who does not want this is declaring war on us. And we know the response to that: no more planes will be leaving the yard," Niehus said, referring to the Hamburg plant.

The EMF said on Friday it was working on demands to safeguard all Airbus sites and jobs.

In France, any severe job cuts or factory sales and closures could feed directly into campaigning ahead of presidential and legislative elections starting in April. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has made tackling unemployment the key theme of his premiership.

A spokesman for Airbus said the company would keep a fair balance between the Airbus countries and that no decisions had yet been taken. He added there had been no impact on production from Friday's protests.

Details of EADS' cost-saving program are due to be presented to the work force on February 20.

(Reuters)