Coronavirus: Plane-maker Airbus furloughs 3,200 staff

Aerospace giant Airbus is to furlough 3,200 staff at its north Wales site, the company has announced.

It comes hours after Chief Executive Guillaume Faury warned the company was “bleeding cash at an unprecedented speed”.

Airbus said about half of the staff at its Broughton site would be placed on the UK government’s job retention scheme, which pays 80% of wages.

The company is expected to top up salaries by a further 5-10%.

The furlough periods of production and support staff will be staggered over the next three weeks.

The remaining staff will stay on site, including 500 who are currently working at the AMRC Cymru facility, building parts for ventilators as part of the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium.

This month the firm announced it was cutting aircraft production by a third.

It comes as the aviation industry is expected to shrink significantly in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Mr Faury also told Airbus’ 135,000 staff to brace for potentially deep job cuts and warned that its survival was at stake without immediate action.

The Welsh Government said it was working with the company and to support its highly-skilled workers, while the UK government said its furlough scheme would help firms “to bounce back and get the economy up and running once the coronavirus emergency is over”.

Airbus A350 XWB

Airbus is this week due to deliver financial results for the first quarter of the year. Those figures will be overshadowed by the pandemic that has left global airlines struggling to survive and almost completely halted plane deliveries since lockdowns started in March.

Greg Waldron, from the aviation industry news website Flight Global, highlighted the huge impact of coronavirus on Airbus and the sector as a whole, saying: “Every assumption we had about the industry has been totally upended.

“The outlook for Airbus has gone from very positive to very negative. There’s simply no demand for new aircraft at the moment.”

‘Great pain’

In response to the pandemic Airbus had already begun implementing government-assisted furlough schemes starting with 3,000 workers in France and said it would lower output of its narrow-body jets to 40 a month.

Airbus has around 13,500 workers in the UK, with most of them making wings at its two major sites in Broughton, in Flintshire, and Filton, Bristol.

Despite the major blow the coronavirus has dealt to Airbus, Mr Waldron thinks it will survive this crisis but not without significant layoffs.

“Airbus is a crucially important industrial programme for Europe, I think Europe will be committed to keeping Airbus going,” he said.

“However, there’s going to be a great deal of pain to go through. If they cut production rates quite significantly you’re going to see large numbers of layoffs. I would expect in a few years you’ll see a smaller leaner Airbus than what we have now.”

Meanwhile, Airbus’ main rival Boeing is battling another major crisis due to the year-long grounding of its 737 Max passenger jet, which had been its best-selling plane.

On Saturday, the US aviation giant scrapped a $4.2bn (£3.4bn) tie-up with Brazil’s Embraer. Some industry analysts saw the move as being triggered by the crises, although the company cited contractual reasons for the decision.

Source: BBC