Airbus workers are protesting against job cuts, plans to reduce bonus payments and payouts made to former management ahead of parent company EADS’ annual general meeting on Friday.

“Virtually all workers” at the company’s Nantes and St Nazaire sites staged a spontaneous walk out on Wednesday.

Airbus says the strike is expected to last until Friday. “Production was of course suspended. There are however at this stage no consequences on deliveries,” the company says.

Union Force Ouvrière describes Airbus’ plan to cut bonuses paid to staff drastically from last year’s levels as an injustice, particularly in the light of the payout of more than €8 million chief executive Noel Forgeard received after he was forced to resign from the company last year.

Airbus restructuring

Airbus is aiming to cut a total of 10,000 jobs as part of the Power8 restructuring plan it devised in response to delays to the A380 programme and the impact of the weak US dollar.

The company is aiming to deliver EBIT contributions of €2.1 billion ($2.9 billion) from 2010 onwards as well as €5 billion of cumulative cash flow from 2007 to 2010.

The Nantes and St Nazaire sites currently make up part of Airbus’ nose and centre fuselage centre of excellence.

Under Power8 Airbus is considering a sale, management or employee buyout or merger of St Nazaire Ville, part of the St Nazaire site.

According to the union St Nazaire is set to lose 369 jobs and Nantes 295.

Setting out the Power8 restructuring plan in February Airbus chief executive Louis Gallois insisted that despite the job losses and uncertainty the company had “responsible” unions that would not jeopardise delivery of aircraft.

But at EADS’s annual general meeting in March he admitted that strikes could disrupt the company’s production schedule

The job losses and management bonuses have been hotly debated in France by presidential candidates Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy as they approach the final stage of the presidential elections on Saturday.

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