Thousands of Airbus workers marched alongside an airport runway in France and staged an ‘empty chair’ protest in Germany on Wednesday to protest against plans to cut up to 15,000 jobs.
The European planemaker announced the 11 percent reduction in its workforce last week, saying its survival was at stake from the collapse in air travel due to the coronavirus crisis.
At Toulouse airport in France, where Airbus is based, some 7,000-9,000 workers walked out of factories and staged a procession on a track near a runway, carrying union-supplied picnic bags and a banner reading “No Compulsory Redundancies.”
The one and-a-half hour strike was the first at Airbus since 2008 asthe company’s usually harmonious labor relations are frayed by the restructuring plan. Flights were not affected.
Corentin, 20, who has been working at Airbus for nine months, was attending his first ever demonstration.
“We are barely starting our active lives and thought we’d have jobs until the end of our careers. Nobody could have imagined this,” he told Reuters.
“Some people bought an apartment; I’m building a house. Of course we’re afraid for the future,” he said.
Many workers were reluctant to speak to media as unions embark on negotiations to try to scale back the cuts.
A visitor takes a picture of an Airbus A350-1000 as it performs during the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France on June 19, 2019. (Reuters)
“Airbus has a real responsibility to get to grips with its restructuring which is excessive and gives a terrible example to suppliers,” said Jean-Francois Knepper of Force Ouvriere union, one of three majority unions at Airbus organizing the march.
The militant CGT union, which is less well represented at Airbus but which dominates the large French aerospace supply chain, plans a further day of protests on Thursday.
In Hamburg, Germany, workers laid out 2,000 empty chairs to symbolize job losses there. The regional head of the IG Metall union said Airbus might seize on the crisis to create cheaper new jobs outside Europe where its biggest plants are located.