Airbus may extend 35-hour work week: report

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Airbus EAD.PA is considering extending its workweek to 40 hours from 35 hours without compensation as part of the European planemaker's restructuring plans, German magazine Focus reported.

An Employee enters the Airbus facility in the northern German town of Varel February 23, 2007. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen

The reported proposal is likely to ring alarm bells in France, where a 35-hour work week was introduced by a Socialist government in 2000 and remains a potentially divisive issue ahead of April-June presidential and legislative elections.

“Management apparently is talking to unions about longer hours: 40 instead of 35 per week are envisaged,” Focus reported in its Monday edition.

EADS unit Airbus declined comment and union representatives could not be reached.

Airbus has come up with plans for an estimated 10,000 job cuts and possible sales of factories to overcome delays to its A380 superjumbo and a currency disadvantage against rival Boeing BA.N, but Franco-German disagreements delayed a final deal.

French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that the two countries should share both the consequences of restructuring and the latest technology.

French business leaders have strongly criticized the country’s 35-hour work week, saying it has curbed growth and failed to stimulate employment as its authors had hoped.

Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal has promised to review the 35-hour work week with the aim of “reducing negative consequences for workers and employees.”

Conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy says the 35-hour week should be retained but viewed as a minimum, not a maximum, with people free to work more or longer if they want.

According to the Focus report, Airbus is also considering selling two French plants, Saint Nazaire and Meaulte, and two German plants, Nordenham and Varel, to cut costs.

It remains unclear whether the company would remain a minority shareholder or sell them completely, Focus said.

The magazine said the A320 single-aisle aircraft assembly would be moved from Toulouse in France to Hamburg in Germany in exchange for Germany dropping demands to assemble the key central section of the future wide-bodied A350.

Airbus is also looking to raise money from sale-and-leaseback programs, selling property and land to investors and leasing them back, Focus said.