Airbus Workers to Disrupt Production in France

Management is offering a 1.9% salary increase for 2010 but the unions are seeking 3.5%, a pay hike comparable to the 2009 level.

In order to press demands for better pay and new hires, Airbus workers decided to disrupt plane production across France on April 26, union officials said. Starting at noon, thousands of workers at the main Toulouse plant and in factories in Nantes and Saint-Nazaire in western France were to halt work on some assembly lines and block parts deliveries.

The protest action came amid tough negotiations over pay rises and resistance to moves to shift production to Germany.

"It is the first time that the five unions have mobilized together on the issue of salaries, work conditions and jobs," said Alain Milhau, from the CGT union.

Union officials said production of A330 and A340 long-haul planes would be disrupted on Monday and that rotating strikes would affect the A320 assembly lines on April 27 before moving to the A380 on April 27.

In Toulouse, unions called on workers to block deliveries of plane parts on April 26 and a full strike was planned for April 30.

Airbus workers downed tools for 90 minutes last week and vowed then to step up their action if no better offer from management was made.

Management is offering a 1.9% salary increase for 2010 but the unions are seeking 3.5%, a pay hike comparable to the 2009 level. Unions argue production has suffered from the massive Power 8 restructuring plan in 2007 that led to 10,000 job cuts, and are calling for new hires.

Airbus has countered that it has added 1,700 employees to its payroll in 2009, half of whom work in France and that 1,500 more will be hired this year.

Worries among Airbus employees have been heightened with the recent decision to move production of the medium-haul A320 to Germany. "The A320 program is the company's lifeblood and while German workers have the right to earn a living, so do the French workers," said union official Jean-Francois Knepper.

"If Airbus wants to keep all of the ailing programs in Toulouse, we can see that France will be getting that part of the industry that is doomed," he said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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