Airbus Confirms Plant Sales, 10,000 Job Cuts

Airbus confirmed Wednesday that it plans to spin off several manufacturing sites and shed about 10,000 jobs as part of a long-awaited restructuring plan, union officials said. Workers staged stoppages to protest the cuts.

The European planemaker briefed unions on plans to sell part or all of its Meaulte and Saint-Nazaire-Ville sites in France as well as Germany's Nordenham and Varel facilities and Filton in Britain, according to France's Force Ouvriere and CGT unions.

A third German site in Laupheim could also be sold, CGT official Xavier Petrachi said.

A spokesman for Airbus parent company EADS declined to comment on the restructuring plan, which was scheduled to be presented at an afternoon news conference in Toulouse.

Airbus is seeking investors to run some of the sites as suppliers to Airbus jet programs, said a person close to the company, who asked not to be named because the plan had yet to be announced.

Approximately 4,300 of the job cuts are to be made in France, 3,900 in Germany, 1,000 to 1,500 in Britain, and 500 in Spain, the person said. Airbus currently employs about 56,000 people.

The Meaulte plant in northern France, which produces the front fuselage sections for Airbus planes, ground to a halt Wednesday as workers walked out to await news of the restructuring measures.

An Airbus spokesman said a strike call issued by unions for later Wednesday was likely to be widely observed by workers at all the company's facilities in France.

The "Power8" restructuring program to be outlined later Wednesday was first announced last year after a two-year production delay to the double-decker A380 wiped 5 billion euros ($6.6 billion) off profit forecasts for 2006-2010. The program aims to claw back the same figure in cost reductions over the period and generate $2.8 billion in annual savings in later years.

Airbus has been badly hit by the weakness of the U.S. dollar — the currency in which its planes are priced — and is expected to shift more of its supplier costs and contract work to dollar-linked economies as part of the restructuring effort.

It also has to fund development of the A350, its $15.3 billion answer to the runaway success of U.S. rival Boeing Co.'s (BA) 787 in the lucrative market for long-range, mid-sized planes.

Under the plan, final assembly of the A350 will be based exclusively in France, the person close to Airbus and a German official familiar with the discussions both said — instead of being split between Germany and France as programs traditionally have been. In return, a future revamp of the single-aisle A320 plane will be assembled in Germany.

The A350's increased use of composites had cast a cloud over the future of Germany's Nordenham plant, where over 2,100 workers produce metal fuselage panels for current Airbus models.