Brazil's Embraer says is cutting its workforce by 4.5%, or about 900 jobs

E2-195 plane with Brazil's No. 3 airline Azul SA logo is seen during a launch event in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil September 12, 2019. REUTERS/Roosevelt Cassio

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian planemaker Embraer SA said on Thursday it is reducing its workforce by 4.5%, or around 900 jobs, as it restructures its business to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and cancellation of its partnership with Boeing.

In the first half of this year, commercial jet deliveries plunged 75% compared with the same period a year earlier, Embraer said in a statement. The company noted that the pandemic hit its commercial aviation division particularly hard.

Separately, newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported that public prosecutors are to investigate Embraer for allegedly coercing staff to accept voluntary redundancy.

The metalworkers union in Sao Jose dos Campos, where Embraer is based, said in a statement that employees accuse Embraer of coercing them to join the program, whose deadline was Tuesday.

The union said it had not been involved in negotiating the layoffs, which it equated to firings. It said the company’s financial problems stem from its failed merger with Boeing and not the pandemic.

Embraer said in its statement that since the onset of the pandemic it has launched three voluntary redundancy programs, accepted by around 1,600 employees. Embraer also said it has taken other measures to preserve jobs such as collective vacations, reduced working hours and paid leave.

“The objective is to ensure the company’s sustainability and engineering capacity,” the company said.

Reporting by Paula Laier, Jamie McGeever and Jake Spring; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler