June 30, 2020 / 9:56 PM / 4 days ago

UPDATE 1-Airbus CEO warns staff against national rivalries amid job cuts

(Adds details, context)

By Johanna Decorse, Julie Rimbert and Tim Hepher

TOULOUSE/PARIS, France, June 30 (Reuters) - The head of planemaker Airbus warned staff against reverting to national or regional agendas that plagued the Franco-German-led firm in the past as workers battle for jobs.

His remarks were made in a letter, seen by Reuters, after Airbus unveiled plans to cut 15,000 jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The last thing we need on top of COVID-19 is finger-pointing between colleagues along national or local lines. That would be unhelpful, unjustified and contrary to the DNA of our company,” CEO Guillaume Faury wrote.

Airbus has undergone changes in governance and management since it was rocked by political and internal power battles before and after its last restructuring in 2008, when French and German staff blamed each other for industrial problems.

“We are successful because we have a European and global DNA and because of this partnership spirit which is very unique to Airbus,” Faury told Reuters.

Airbus presented balanced targets for job cuts including around 5,000 each in France and Germany, while separately listing 900 German cuts pre-dating the crisis.

Unions pledged to resist cuts across the board. French unions said they would insist Airbus restore plans to add an assembly line in France for the German-assembled A321.

Faury, a Frenchman who speaks fluent German and is not closely associated with the company’s previously warring factions, virtually all of whom have left, thanked governments as well as financial markets for support during the crisis.

France and Germany own 11% each of Airbus and Spain 4%, but since 2013 governance rules shield Airbus from direct state interference.

Nonetheless, the latest job cuts are seen as the biggest test of the complex political climate Airbus operates in as governments exert influence as defence buyers or through employment policy.

A French government source said earlier the planned 15,000 job cuts were “excessive.” (Reporting by Julie Rimbert, Johanna Decorse and Tim Hepher; writing by Michel Rose, Tim Hepher; editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)

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