Differing redundancy legislation in the four countries in which Airbus has plants has led to job cuts in the UK while workers in France, Germany and Spain have had hours slashed.

Around 500 jobs at Airbus UK plants in Broughton and Filton are to go over the next few months in response to the European airframe manufacturer's cut in production targets next year from more than 400 aircraft to 275. The company, which employs 11,000 people in the UK, says it should manage to avoid forced redundancies if a package including a wage-freeze deal goes through.

Airbus initially warned unions that up to 2,000 jobs could go in the UK unless the company was able to cut costs. The UK's prime responsibility is the design and manufacture of the wings for all Airbus aircraft.

France, Germany and Spain have labour laws that make it more expensive and difficult to cut employee numbers, and savings are more easily made in other areas. But plants in those countries will cut work hours by around 20%, and adopt other measures such as a recruitment freeze and a ban on overtime.

Airbus, which is owned by EADS and BAE Systems, says it has simply demanded cost cuts, leaving the specific methods of achieving this up to the various national offices.

The main Airbus union in the UK, the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, says it will advise workers to support the deal in a New Year ballot. "We see this as quite positive compared with what happened at Rolls-Royce, "it says, referring to the engine manufacturer's 3,800 UK job cuts (Flight International, 23-29 October 2001). Overall, the Society of British Aerospace Companies estimates the UK will lose around 40,000 aviation-related jobs as a result of the recession and the aftermath of 11 September.

While most job losses will come in the manufacturing and manufacturing-support sectors, Airbus says it is continuing to recruit engineers for its A380 airliner and A400M military transport programmes.

It recently announced the creation of a wing-design office in the USA, and has formed a partnership with GKN Engage to design the midbox of the A380 wing from joint offices in the UK.

Source: Flight International