Airbus Workers Strike Against Sale of Plants

Unions want same treatment their German counterparts received after Airbus decided to create a holding company for the three plants there instead of selling them off.

Workers at Airbus went on strike in all four of the airplane manufacturer's French factories on April 24 to protest against plans to sell two sites under a much-contested restructuring plan. Unions are demanding that French workers be given equal treatment to their German counterparts after Airbus decided to create a holding company for the three plants there instead of selling them off.

"There is no reason that French industry, which founded the European aeronautics industry, should be dismantled," said Jean-Francois Knepper from the FO trade union at Airbus France. Hundreds of workers rallied outside factories in Toulouse, Nantes, Saint-Nazaire and Meaulte, distributing leaflets and setting up roadblocks, according to the FO trade union.

At least 80% of workers were on strike at the factories, according to union officials, but management said 60% had downed tools. Trade unions had called for a four-hour strike in all Airbus factories in France, but workers in Meaulte decided to stage protest action over two days.

Under the Power8 plan to overhaul Airbus, the factories at Saint-Nazaire and Meaulte are to be sold, along with the British plant at Filton.The company's chief executive Tom Enders said on April 22 in Geneva that the firm will press ahead with the Power8 plan unveiled last year, which also calls for cutting 10,000 jobs. "Strikes happen from time to time. I'm not overly impressed but we're moving ahead with our plans to divest certain structures," Enders said in Geneva. He conceded, however, that the timing for implementing the new strategy "could not be worse" due to the weak dollar.

Airbus has created a new holding company called German Aerostructures Company (GAC) for its plants in Varel, Nordenham and Augsburg, owned by parent company EADS, after talks to sell the factories to MT Aeropace collapsed.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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