The boss of Airbus says the company is facing the “gravest crisis in the industry’s history” as he announced plans to cut 15,000 jobs globally.
The aerospace giant intends to reduce its UK workforce by 1,700 “to reflect the post-Covid-19 outlook”, a move that looks set to impact the company’s Filton site, which employs some 3,000 people.
Airbus’ commercial aircraft business activity has dropped by close to 40 per cent in recent months. Bosses say the final details of the ‘adaption plan’ still need to be finalised and the firm is said to be in talks with union representatives about the potential job losses.
Unite the Union has slammed the news as “another act of industrial vandalism and a terrible insult to our incredible UK workforce”. It is calling on the Government to do more to support the aerospace industry and those affected.
Tim Bowles, the regional mayor for the West of England, has also responded, saying the potential jobs cuts are “very disappointing” for the hardworking and talented team at Filton. He says he is lobbying the Government for further support for the sector.
Airbus says an information and consultation process has already begun, with a view to reaching agreements for implementation starting in autumn 2020. The company anticipates its global workforce will be reduced by around 15,000 positions no later than summer 2021.
“Airbus is facing the gravest crisis this industry has ever experienced,” said the company’s CEO Guillaume Faury.
“The measures we have taken so far have enabled us to absorb the initial shock of this global pandemic. Now, we must ensure that we can sustain our enterprise and emerge from the crisis as a healthy, global aerospace leader, adjusting to the overwhelming challenges of our customers.
“To confront that reality, we must now adopt more far-reaching measures. Our management team and our board of directors are fully committed to limiting the social impact of this adaptation.
“We thank our governmental partners as they help us preserve our expertise and know-how as much as possible and have played an important role in limiting the social impact of this crisis in our industry. The Airbus teams and their skills and competencies will enable us to pursue our ambition to pioneer a sustainable future for aerospace.”
Airbus predicts air traffic will not recover to pre-Covid levels before 2023 and potentially as late as 2025 and is adapting its workforce accordingly, with an expected 5,000 job cuts in France, 5,100 in Germany, 900 in Spain and 1,300 across its other sites worldwide, alongside the 1,700 in the UK.
Responding to the news on Wednesday, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “This is yet another act of industrial vandalism and a terrible insult to our incredible UK workforce who deserve so much better from our government.
“Over the weeks of this crisis, this country’s aerospace jobs have gone hand over fist yet not one word of support or act of assistance has been forthcoming from the government. The UK government is watching from the sidelines while a national asset is destroyed.”
Airbus bosses have said “compulsory actions cannot be ruled out at this stage”, but the company is hoping to limit the impact by relying on measures such as voluntary departures, early retirement, and long-term partial unemployment schemes where appropriate.
Bowles has said West of England Combined Authority (WECA) officers will lead a multi-agency rapid redundancy response – involving government departments, employers, education and training providers and unions – to put together a package of options to help affected staff secure new roles or develop new skills.
“This is a challenging time for the aerospace sector as a whole and very disappointing news for the hard-working and talented team at Filton,” said the Conservative mayor, outlining a range of programmes, including the development of a regional business-to-business platform to help workers find alternative employment and retraining opportunities.
He added: “We are also leading a bid for the whole of the South West to run a Made Smarter programme to support the resilience and adaptation of the supply chain.
“With the support of our West of England Regional Recovery Taskforce, we are also making the case to government to further support the wider aerospace and advanced engineering sector.”
Main photo courtesy of Airbus