Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury: “We proceeded moderately with the job cuts”

SPIEGEL: Mr. Faury, ten weeks ago you said you would do anything to secure jobs at Airbus. Now 15,000 jobs are to be cut at once. How does that fit together?

Faury: International air traffic has practically disappeared in recent months. Two thirds of the global aircraft fleet of 21,000 jets stood on the ground. The effects of the corona crisis on aviation have been and are catastrophic. We spoke to the airlines to understand how we could best adapt our production to the new level of demand. If we reduce capacity by 40 percent compared to the original forecast for 2020 and 2021, we can stabilize the company, but an adjustment in the number of employees is necessary.

SPIEGEL: And then do you do that one-to-one for the employees?

Faury: It is not that easy. We have around 90,000 employees in the civil aircraft sector. If we were to estimate the impact of the pandemic here at minus 40 percent, that would directly affect around 35,000 jobs. So you can see that we proceeded moderately with the intended job cuts. We are of course also discussing the restructuring with the governments in Germany and our other home countries. Longer-term short-time work and government support for research and development could help secure jobs until the recovery begins. For example, engineers could be temporarily transferred to the research area.

SPIEGEL: Does that mean you hope for funds from the federal government’s stimulus package?

Faury: Quite. We think that up to 500 jobs could be obtained if, for example, the federal government supported us through the program for the development of aircraft with hydrogen engines. Extending short-time work to 24 months could also secure up to 1,500 jobs. For example, the number of job cuts planned in Germany could be reduced from 5,100 to 3,100. Discussions are already underway.

SPIEGEL: Does the same apply in France?

Faury: Yes, here the comparative numbers would be up to 3500 jobs that were up for grabs instead of the required 5000.

SPIEGEL: At VW, years ago, when demand slumped, the company dealt with a four-day week. Wouldn’t that also be conceivable for you?

Faury: Of course, we discuss many options with our employee representatives, and the four-day week is one of them. We are already considering reducing weekly working hours to spread the work across more employees. However, this does not solve all problems.

SPIEGEL: You emphasize that the governments in France, Germany and Spain, which together hold 26 percent of Airbus, support your plans. However, this support does not appear to be large: the French side describes the job cuts as “excessive” and Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier fears that the Germans will get away particularly badly.

Faury: No final decisions have yet been made. A process begins with our announcement. But I want to make one thing clear: Airbus is a European company. No matter in which of our home countries someone lives and works, everyone is treated equally and everything will be balanced and fair.

SPIEGEL: However, the government in Paris seems to be very upset.

Faury: We are always in very close contact with our government partners. There is mutual understanding of each other’s concerns. It is clear to everyone that we cannot cushion such a serious crisis on our own. We have done a lot in the past few months, but we are sitting together in this boat. If governments made sure that the whole system came back on line as quickly as possible so that airlines could fly again and make money, it would help the entire industry.

SPIEGEL: The three Airbus owner countries could increase their shares. Would further nationalization be an option?

Faury: When the crisis started, we secured 15 billion euros on the capital market to strengthen our liquidity. At the moment, we therefore see no reason for further government participation in corporate capital.

SPIEGEL: In the negotiations between the federal government and Lufthansa over a rescue package, it was decided that the airline would take over all the jets it had ordered from Airbus. Does this make sense?

Faury: The rules of competition cannot simply be undermined. Lufthansa has been a very good customer of ours for many years. We are therefore closely coordinated to coordinate their needs and the planned deliveries – just like with many other airlines. Despite the crisis, it still makes sense to buy quieter, more fuel-efficient aircraft, for the sake of the environment.

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