Airbus will be cutting 15,000 jobs around the world in a move that reflects how the distress of the aviation industry has moved up the supply chain, from the consumer-facing businesses to the support services and now to aircraft manufacturing. The cuts have been on the table for some time: in April, CEO Guillaume Faury had already warned employees that the company's survival was in question. And in its statement confirming the cuts, released earlier this week, the aerospace giant said that air traffic is "not expected to recover to pre-COVID levels before 2023 and potentially as late as 2025".
The figure of 15,000, which is reportedly based upon projections of a 40 percent drop in aircraft production for the next two years, amounts to somewhat over 11 percent of Airbus's 135,000-strong workforce. The majority of the positions will be cut from the production lines in France and Germany, but the smaller facilities in Spain and the UK, as well as other worldwide sites, will also see hundreds of jobs slashed, according to figures in the official statement. All the cuts are targeted to take place by summer 2021.
Calling COVID-19 “the gravest crisis this industry has ever experienced,” CEO Guillaume Faury said that the company needs to adjust to the challenges faced by its customers, but that Airbus is also considering the community impact of the job cuts. “Our management team and our Board of Directors are fully committed to limiting the social impact of this adaptation. We thank our governmental partners as they help us preserve our expertise and know-how as much as possible and have played an important role in limiting the social impact of this crisis in our industry," he said.
Airbus has been hinting for some time that it would encourage voluntary departures. Over a third of its existing workforce is due to retire within the next decade, suggesting that the company will lean very heavily on early retirement. Compulsory cuts will probably only be a last resort if voluntary departures fail, and if Airbus does implement those, it will face a hard fight with the powerful unions that dominate its French operations. A number of the French unions have already declared that they will strongly oppose compulsory cuts.