Airbus Union Implores France To Save A400M

Metalworkers union at Airbus SAS asked French government to pressure its European allies to save the troubled A400M military transport program.

PARIS (AP) -- The leading metalworkers union at Airbus SAS Wednesday appealed to the French government to pressure its European allies to save the troubled A400M military transport program and protect thousands of jobs.

Airbus threatened to Tuesday to abandon the program if governments can't agree on how to share the massive cost overruns. In a statement, the Force Ouvriere union's metalworking branch urged France to push for an agreement.

"Our federation asks the state to shoulder its responsibilities and intervene with its European counterparts so that this aircraft, which has just successfully made its first flight and is lucky enough to be coming to market without any competition, can become the spearhead of European technological excellence," the union said.

The A400M program employs 8,000 people already and would be responsible for creating 40,000 jobs in Europe over the next 40 years, the union said.

The union also put some of the blame for the costly, much-delayed aircraft's troubles on the very European governments who have ordered it. It said that the aircraft's problems "are also because of the demands of the multiple partner governments which from the beginning posed insurmountable challenges" to Airbus parent company EADS NV.

The seven customer governments of the A400M -- a hulking, gray turboprop with four large black propellers -- have agreed to re-negotiate the original fixed-price contract. But competing military interests and tight budgets mean they have so far failed to find a compromise.

The program was launched six years ago with an order for 180 planes from seven governments -- Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey. The original price was euro20 billion ($29.5 billion), but a preliminary report by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers said parent company EADS might need an extra euro5 billion -- inflating the final bill by 25 percent.

Abandoning the project would cost EADS euro5.7 billion ($8.4 billion) in advance payments it would have to return to governments -- and would dent its credibility. It has already put aside euro2.4 billion in provisions against losses related to the plane.