Airbus is offering its workforce in France options to go in for voluntary retirement or take pay cuts to stay on. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Paris: Airbus 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 thin its ranks with fewer forced layoffs.

The pandemic-hit planemaker is also offering to top up monthly wages by as much as 350 euros ($415) for up to a year if workers move permanently to lower-paid jobs, according to a letter to French staffers. A two-year minimum period before employees can switch positions has also been removed, and Airbus is offering pension incentives for people who take early retirement.

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The European aerospace giant, grappling with an unprecedented collapse in air travel because of the coronavirus, is trying to entice workers to leave to limit tougher measures it's unlikely to avoid altogether. The planemaker has pledged to slash 15,000 jobs across its operations, with France braced to absorb about one-third of those.

Airbus will provide an update on the exit package at its next works council on September 24 and should close discussions with unions October 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.

Never enough

CEO Guillaume Faury has warned 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".

With travel depressed and debt mounting, airlines are preserving cash by delaying and, in some cases, canceling deliveries of Airbus and Boeing Co. aircraft.

Hit hard

"While a number of airlines are taking deliveries this year of aircraft that were close to completion, we expect them to stubbornly refuse to take planes until demand picks up significantly," Bloomberg Intelligence analysts George Ferguson and Rob Barnett wrote in a report .

Faury faces pressure from unions and the French and German governments - the biggest Airbus shareholders - to protect employment. He has previously said that compulsory cuts will be "a last resort".