MADRID/PARIS – Airbus took a step towards closing a plant in southern Spain on Wednesday, but rowed back over proposals to sell off the production of small airplane parts elsewhere in Europe as it attempts to finalise a major post-Covid restructuring plan.
After months of protests over the future of its Puerto Real plant in Cadiz, Airbus said it was discussing with unions a plan to combine it with a second nearby plant, leaving one facility instead of two at the southern tip of its European network.
The politically sensitive move could lead to one of the first significant factory closures in the company’s 50-year history and reflects a slump in demand for the world’s largest jets, following a halt in production of the A380 superjumbo.
The proposal, which is subject to final union negotiations on matters like investment, would avoid compulsory redundancies in Spain where talks over the company’s wider restructuring have been held up by disputes over the future of Puerto Real.
Work at the robot-assisted factory, where part of the A380’s tail section was assembled, has plummeted. It has also suffered from a decline in demand for another long-haul model, the A330.
Puerto Real employs about 350 people and the nearby Bay of Cadiz plant, which focuses on defence and space components, has some 460 people – both in an area where skilled jobs are scarce.
Airbus said no decision had been taken on which plant in Cadiz would cease production, but a spokesman said Puerto Real would in any event have a role in the development of future industrial technology to be used across its European shopfloors.
Cadiz, in Spain’s southern Andalusia region, has one of the country’s highest unemployment rates, with one in every four adults jobless. Workers there fear the economic impact of shuttering a plant that provides hundreds of high-tech jobs.