Thousands of Airbus employees went on a brief strike Wednesday to protest against the mass involuntary layoffs looming at the company as a result of the current pandemic. Workers in France marched along a runway, and in Germany, protests took the shape of empty chairs and red balloons.
Last week European aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced it would be laying off around 15,000 employees, the equivalent of 11% of its workforce. Today, thousands of the company’s workers participated in a one and a half-hour strike in France and Germany.
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Thousands marched in Toulouse
In Toulouse, France, the location of Airbus’ home base, some 7,000 to 9,000 workers walked out of the company’s factories and marched alongside a runway of Toulouse’s airport. As reported by Reuters, they carried picnic bags supplied to them by the union, and a banner reading “No Compulsory Redundancies.” No flights were affected as a result of the march.
— Le Parisien Economie (@LeParisien_Eco) July 8, 2020
“Airbus has a real responsibility to get to grips with its restructuring which is excessive and gives a terrible example to suppliers,” Force Ouvriere union representative Jean-Francois Knepper told reporters.
Another union, called CGT, which is not that well-represented at Airbus but has a strong overall presence in the French aerospace industry, is planning further protests on Thursday.
2,000 empty chairs in Hamburg
In Hamburg, Germany, workers staged an “empty chair” protest. Two thousand chairs were displayed as symbols of the jobs that could potentially be lost in the city as a result of the Airbus cuts. Personal photos of workers had been taped to the seatbacks.
— shz.de (@shz_de) July 8, 2020
The sky above Augsburg, another German city that might be impacted by the redundancies, was filled with red balloons. Airbus employees released them after having inscribed them with their demands.
Airbus has said that job cuts will decidedly go ahead but has offered to save 3,000 out of the 15,000 if the governments of France and Germany agree to extend their furlough schemes and aid programs. The French Government has described the Airbus restructuring plan as excessive.
Fears for the future
Airbus did not immediately return a request for comment from Simple Flying. However, when approached earlier by Reuters, a spokesperson for the planemaker referred back to the statement from last week. In it, CEO Guillaume Faury said that the company was facing the gravest crisis ever but that it was “committed to limiting the social impact of its reorganization.”
While not many demonstrators were keen to talk to the press while negotiations are still ongoing, Corentin, 20 and with the company for nine months had this to say,
“We are barely starting our active lives and thought we’d have jobs until the end of our careers. Nobody could have imagined this. Some people bought an apartment; I’m building a house. Of course we’re afraid for the future,” he told Reuters.