Airbus workers throughout Europe
have reacted with anger to the announcement on 28 February of the axing of
10,000 jobs at its plants in Europe as part of
its "Power 8" plan. Following the announcement, Airbus workers responded with
walk-outs which stopped production on 1 and 2 March in the Nordenham, Varel,
and Laupheim factories in Germany.
There were also stoppages in France
including at the St. Nazaire plant on west coast of France. On 6 March, French
factories in Toulouse, Méaulte, St. Nazaire, and
down as workers marched in the streets. The press have reported that 1,500
marched in Méaulte and around 15,000 in Toulouse.
Support for the strike was solid with over 90% out.
Of the 10,000 job cuts, 1,100
jobs will be lost at Airbus Headquarters in Toulouse,
3,200 will be lost in the rest of France,
3,700 in Germany, 400 in Spain, and 1,600 in the UK. Around
5,000 of these job losses will be temporary or on-site contractors where the
cuts have already started. Airbus manufacture aircraft parts all over Europe,
and the planes are finally assembled either in Toulouse
One part of the Power 8 plan is to outsource as much manufacturing capacity as
possible to drive down costs, that is to exploit their workers further, in
order to increase profits.
The announcement follows extensive discussions between
national governments. President Chirac of France met with German Chancellor
Merkel the weekend before the announcement to discuss the job cuts. Alistair
Darling, the UK Trade and Industry Secretary, was reported to have threatened
Airbus with the loss of military orders if the cuts in the UK were too
deep. Thus the bourgeois politicians jostle among themselves to secure the best
deal for their individual national capitalist class. Reacting to the Power 8
announcement on 28 February, the leading Airbus governments all welcomed the
news while shedding crocodile tears at the job losses in their respective
countries. Darling said, "The long-term future for Airbus in the UK is a good
one". French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin called the plan "necessary"
and added that the French Government would give €100m in aid to Airbus.
Chancellor Merkel has also publicly supported the plan.
Although at the time of writing, the details are still
unclear, it appears that the 1,600 jobs lost in the UK
will be shared between Filton near Bristol,
which manufactures parts for wings, fuel systems and landing gear, and the
plant at Broughton in North Wales that
assembles wings for Airbus aircraft. Airbus, like the other main aircraft
manufacturer Boeing, wishes to move from aircraft built from metal to aircraft
using composite carbon fibre. The assembly line at Broughton is designed to make
metal wings. No investment was announced for Broughton to enable the factory to
assemble composite wings and therefore the long-term future of the plant is not
assured. A second, smaller part of Filton that designs wings will be largely
In addition to the job cuts,
Airbus Management have announced their intention to focus on "core business",
in other words to contract out activities that are not considered to be core.
At three plants, Filton, Méaulte (France) and Nordenham (Germany), Airbus
will seek "industrial partnerships" and have apparently already received
unsolicited approaches from potential partners. For example, press reports have
mentioned that GKN of the UK
is understood to be interested in Filton, presumably with the intent of purchasing
it from Airbus. Airbus have also made clear their intention to sell off or even
close factories at three other sites at Varel, Laupheim (both in Germany), and St. Nazaire-Ville (France).
Airbus currently have a backlog
of orders of 2,700 aircraft, which is enough work for years without any other
future orders. Business for airlines is booming and new aircraft are in heavy
demand. So what has gone wrong at Airbus? Tom Enders, the joint-CEO of EADS,
Airbus's parent company, admitted a few days ago that "serious management
mistakes were made". The costs of producing the new Airbus A380 aircraft, the
"super-jumbo" have soared owing to management blunders. Another new type of
Airbus aircraft, the A350, is needed to compete with Boeing's new "Dreamliner",
the B787. But the A350 has to be redesigned, because of further management
errors, which has meant both that its development costs have risen and that it
will not be available for years. This has allowed Boeing to capture the market
with the B787 which is ready just about now. Under capitalism, Airbus's workers
are now being asked to pay the price for their management's incompetence.
There is no doubt that Airbus is
also planning to move some of their production to factories outside Europe. A manufacturing plant outside Beijing will be completed later this year
when it will produce Airbus parts and later assemble whole aircraft. There have
been press reports that President Putin of Russia is interested in a similar
deal. Airbus's only real rival is Boeing of the US and it is no accident that
global politics and the competition for markets by each national bourgeoisie
impact on the future of Airbus. Both the Russians and the Chinese are looking
to Europe to assist their own indigenous aircraft manufacturing industries and
to help provide their airlines with badly needed planes, while not wanting to
rely on the US
to do so.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the right-wing
French Presidential candidate, said, when the job losses were first announced,
that the state should not interfere in Airbus. Having now seen the reaction of
the French people, he has now cynically changed his mind and is now calling for
increased French Government influence in the company, presumably to protect
jobs in France at the
expense of jobs elsewhere in Europe. Workers
throughout Airbus regardless of their nationality need to reject such
reactionary manoeuvres. It is only by uniting across frontiers that the Power8
plan can be defeated.
There is now talk of a European
day of action on 16 March. The trade unions should aim to organise action on
that day across the whole of Airbus in opposition to Power8. Airbus's
Management, while admitting order books are full, are concerned at the
consequences of strike action – a clear sign they are worried. The advisors to
capital, the corporate analysts, have expressed doubts whether the projected
cost savings can be made given the lack of detail given by Airbus's management
and the reaction of the unions. The battle against Power8 can be won with a determined
fight by workers and their leaders. In order to win the war and not just the battle,
it is necessary for Airbus to be nationalised under workers' control and
management and for capitalism itself to be abolished.