Paris (AFP)

If the need for the restructuring plan announced by Airbus is accepted, governments and unions denounce its scale and the prospect of forced departures, highlighting the support measures which the aircraft manufacturer benefits to "save" as many jobs as possible.

The "adaptation plan to Covid-19" announced Tuesday evening by the group to 135,000 employees provides for the elimination of 15,000 jobs worldwide by the summer of 2021.

In France, where the group has 49,000 employees, the prospect of seeing 5,000 positions cut has shocked. An industrial flagship and symbol of European cooperation, Airbus, which has its headquarters in Toulouse, is also a source of national pride.

In Germany, where the group has 45,500 employees and plans to cut 5,100 jobs, the plan also makes people cringe.

The powerful IG Metall union, which calls on Airbus to give up dry layoffs, fears a social "catastrophe" which must encourage "politicians to find solutions for the sector".

"We are of course assuming that the restructuring will be carried out in such a way that no country is privileged or disadvantaged", said for his part the Minister of Economy Peter Altmaier, remarks appearing as a veiled criticism of the announcements from yesterday.

The French and German states are each 11% shareholder of the European giant, the Spanish state owning 4% of the capital.

In the United Kingdom, where 1,700 jobs are cut, the Unite union attacks the government of Boris Johnson who "observes from afar the destruction of a national asset" when Paris and Berlin act "to protect the sector".

With financially drained airlines, the aircraft manufacturer has seen 40% of its activity disappear. "It will most likely take a long time to go up, so we must take decisive action now," argued its executive chairman Guillaume Faury.

- "Survival mode" -

"I do not expect much support in this type of situation even if we work closely" with the governments, he said to the press.

Airbus is counting on early retirement, voluntary departures and also on the conclusion of wage moderation agreements with the unions to limit layoffs.

The French Secretary of State for Transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, who "did the calculations tonight", assured Wednesday that the aircraft manufacturer was able to "save" 2,000 jobs in France thanks to the partial unemployment scheme that the parliament is about to vote and support measures for research and development for a "new generation of green aircraft".

Depending on its terms, the long-term partial activity plan (APLD) could help preserve "up to 1,000 jobs" in France, Guillaume Faury told AFP. "We have a fairly specific idea, it is known to the government, we are counting on it," he said.

In addition, nearly 500 additional jobs could also be preserved in France according to Airbus thanks to the 1.5 billion euros of support for innovation, one part of the 15 billion euros plan adopted by Paris in support of the sector aeronautics.

In Germany, "the device of + Kurzarbeit + (partial activity) should allow us (...) to go up to 1,500" jobs preserved, according to Mr. Faury.

Berlin has also adopted a billion-euro subsidy plan to help build cleaner planes, said Peter Altmaier. An envelope which Airbus can ask to take advantage of and which can help "overcome current difficulties" in the sector.

With the crisis caused by the coronavirus, the aeronautical and air transport sectors have embarked on major restructuring worldwide.

Airbus, and the entire chain of subcontractors with him, considers him to be in "survival mode" in the face of a "crisis of incredible gravity", in the words of Mr. Faury.

"We are trying to look at things as they are," he told AFP. "We think that we are not necessarily the most ill-placed to have the vision of what awaits us".

© 2020 AFP