Thousands of Spanish Airbus workers protest layoff plan

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GETAFE, Spain (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish Airbus (PA:AIR) employees gathered outside a factory near Madrid on Thursday, waving banners and chanting through face-masks, to protest against a restructuring plan that will see hundreds of jobs lost.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought air travel to a screeching halt, hammering demand for the planes and systems that Airbus produces. The company, which is 4% owned by the Spanish government, has said it will lay off about 900 workers in Spain as part of cuts of 15,000 jobs worldwide.

“We’re protesting because the company, taking advantage of this temporary situation of COVID-19, wants to get rid of 900 workers,” said Jose Luis Collado, who has worked at the company for 41 years.

“This is a temporary situation. It’s going to pass and we don’t understand why we’re being thrown out on the street.”

From the factory, the protesters marched 2 km to Getafe’s town hall where the mayor gave a speech in support of the workers.

“For us it’s about defending our rights, defending Spain’s aerospace sector. It needs to be supported,” said Lorena Fernandez, another protester with 11 years at the company.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at the beginning of this month that the government was working with Airbus to find ways to keep jobs in the country, but so far no details on any rescue plan have been released.

France and Germany will bear the brunt of the layoffs, with around 5,000 apiece. But the loss of 900 manufacturing jobs in Spain is nonetheless a blow for an economy that has been among the worst hit in Europe by the fallout from the pandemic.

Before the coronavirus crisis, Airbus was already planning to cut around 700 jobs in Spain.

In recent months Japanese automaker Nissan (T:7201) has said it will close three plants in Catalonia, while Alcoa (N:AA) is in the process of shutting an aluminium factory in the northwestern region of Galicia.