Airbus cuts jobs worldwide, including in Singapore, due to Covid-19

Airbus had unveiled plans to cut about 15,000 jobs worldwide, saying its future was at stake. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Aircraft maker Airbus has retrenched some of its workers in Singapore, as Covid-19 travel restrictions in the region has forced planes to be grounded and dented demand for aviation support services.

The company told The Straits Times: "After a thorough review of our operations, we have had no option but to take difficult adaptive measures, primarily affecting positions within our customer services operation and related support functions here."

The European airline manufacturer declined to reveal how many workers were retrenched or the proportion of Singaporeans affected.

Airbus said it is managing the process "with respect and care for the affected employees and providing them with all possible assistance".

This included working with the National Trades Union Congress' Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and the Association of Aerospace Industries (Singapore) (AAIS) to help find new job opportunities for those affected.

The aviation industry has been severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with international air travel crippled by border closures and airlines scrapping plane orders. Aerospace firms, including component manufacturers and maintenance facilities, are reining in costs and cutting manpower due to declining business.

Earlier this week, aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul firm Eagle Services Asia decided to let go more than 140 workers despite implementing other cost-containment measures earlier "such as a temporary salary reduction and short work week, cancelled merit increases, hiring freezes and discretionary spending cuts".

"This is unfortunately a result of current market conditions we are facing, including customer-driven volume declines due to a generational pandemic no one could foresee," said the company, which had 829 workers before the retrenchment.

The firm did not follow due process for the retrenchment exercise by informing those affected last week even before talks with the unions concluded. Legal industrial action, authorised by labour chief Ng Chee Meng, was averted after the company reached an amicable agreement with the unions.

It was also reported this month that jet engine-maker Rolls-Royce would be shedding some 240 jobs in Singapore, or nearly a quarter of its local workforce. The layoffs, part of a global restructuring, will affect mostly technical roles. The company manufactures fan blades and assembles engines at Seletar Aerospace Park.

Meanwhile, budget carrier Jetstar Asia has let go of 167 staff members, a reduced number from the previous estimate of 180 due to new job placements and some resignations. Most of the redundancies were through a voluntary process.

"The restructuring process is now complete and the business retains approximately an 80 per cent Singaporean/permanent resident workforce," the company told ST, adding that it had recently detailed a recovery plan that includes reducing its fleet to 13 aircraft by February next year.

Mr Sia Kheng Yok, chief executive of AAIS, said aircraft manufacturers and some major aerospace companies had announced global job cuts ranging from 10 per cent to 25 per cent, or between 9,000 to 16,000 jobs.

In Singapore, government support has blunted the local impact of these global job cuts, he told ST.

"With the weak market outlook persisting for another few years, some companies are having to trim their workforce after exhausting alternative avenues. Together with government agencies, we are identifying measures that can better position the industry for the future."

Last month, Airbus unveiled plans to cut about 15,000 jobs worldwide, saying its future was at stake.

As at end of the first quarter of this year, Airbus employed some 830 people in Singapore in its various entities, covering the commercial aircraft, helicopter, defence and space businesses.

The planemaker said: "Despite the very challenging situation for our industry, we remain committed to our presence in Singapore as our regional hub."

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