Airbus unions ‘ready to fight’

TOULOUSE, France – Workers at Airbus plants in France, Germany and Spain staged strikes and protests Friday, maintaining a united front against a restructuring plan the troubled aircraft maker said would slash 10,000 jobs across Europe.

The actions at Airbus facilities around the continent followed a similar movement last week by at least 12,000 workers.

Friday’s protests hit a company reeling from management and financial crises that have caused parent company EADS to cut its profit forecast by more than 5 billion euros ($6.6 billion). Those troubles led to the Power8 restructuring plan, which would also spin off or close six Airbus factories.

Unions said members at the company’s French and German plants stopped work Friday. In Spain 9,000 workers at Airbus’ three factories and other sites owned by its parent company, European Aeronautic Defence &Space Co., or EADS, were expected to walk off the job for an hour.

In Toulouse in southern France, thousands of striking workers from various French Airbus sites protested in front of the company’s headquarters.

Organizer Jean-Francois Knepper warned of “even tougher” protest actions if management doesn’t consider the unions’ own restructuring proposals.

In the northern German port of Hamburg, union organizers said some 15,000 people gathered for the main protest, blowing whistles and waving small cardboard airplanes. Many had arrived by bus from across Germany to attend.

“David vs. Goliath: We are ready to fight,” and “We Stand Together” read placards carried by protesters, their faces tense and drawn.

“The mood at Airbus is bad, nobody really knows what will happen next,” said Holger Ruschinski, an employee of the Airbus factory in Hamburg. “Our motivation level has dropped to the cellar.”

More than 2,000 people gathered outside the Airbus plant in the southwestern German town of Laupheim, brandishing placards decrying the planned sale of the factory, the IG Metall industrial union said.

A demonstration was planned in front of the French headquarters of EADS in Paris. Smaller demonstrations were planned outside Spanish production sites.

In France, the demonstrations have thrust the Airbus restructuring into the presidential election campaign, with candidates making competing promises of government intervention to bolster the planemaker.

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