Airbus Offers Exit Bonus in Bid to Boost French Employee Buyouts

Airbus SE is offering French employees a bonus of two months’ salary if they accept voluntary severance by the end of next month, stepping up efforts to reduce the number of forced layoffs at the pandemic-hit planemaker.

The company is also offering a monthly pretax wage boost of as much as 350 euros ($415) for up to a year if workers move permanently to lower-paid jobs, according to a letter Monday to French staffers, which was seen by Bloomberg. Airbus is also removing the two-year minimum period before employees can switch positions and offering pension incentives for people who take early retirement.

The European aerospace giant, grappling with an unprecedented collapse in air travel because of the coronavirus, will provide an update on the exit package at its next works council on Sept. 24 and should close discussions with unions Oct. 15, according to the letter. Nearly 2,000 staff members have already expressed a serious interest in voluntary departure, Donald Fraty, the head of human resources for France, said in the letter.

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The voluntary severance period runs until the end of December. The company is also negotiating long-term furloughs with unions for application in a “defined scope,” the letter said.

An Airbus spokesman said the company is keeping employees informed at all stages but declined to comment on specific details of the letter.

Airbus is sweetening its exit offer after a fresh warning from Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury that voluntary departures were unlikely to be enough to meet Airbus’ job cuts target. In a missive to staff sent last Friday, he said the summer travel season fell short of the industry’s expectations and the company is now prepared for a “deep and long downturn.”

The planemaker has pledged to slash 15,000 jobs across its operations, with France bracing for a loss of 5,000 positions. Faury, who faces pressure from the French and German governments to protect employment, has previously said that compulsory cuts will be “a last resort”.

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