BERLIN (AP) - Several thousand workers at three Airbus plants in Germany staged protests Thursday against the aircraft maker's possible sale of two of the factories, the country's biggest industrial union said.
The Varel and Laupheim plants face sale or closure under a restructuring plan announced by Airbus earlier this year. Airbus is seeking a partner for a third plant, at Nordenham.
The IG Metall union said that roughly 2,000 employees each protested Thursday at Varel and Nordenham, both in northwestern Germany. A few hundred demonstrated at Laupheim, in the southwest, the union said.
At Nordenham, local union representative Heino Bade said that ''the factory is at a standstill.''
''We are fighting against Airbus negotiating with potential buyers behind the unions' backs,'' Bade said.
German union officials have questioned the economic sense of selling plants, but employee representatives appeared earlier this week to back off all-out opposition to the idea.
''If they are long-term partnerships, we will certainly give this concept serious thought,'' chief employee representative Ruediger Luetjen said on Wednesday.
Thursday's protests came ahead of a meeting at Airbus headquarters in Toulouse next week between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and amid expectations that the two sides will agree to change parent company EADS' cumbersome Franco-German dual management structure.