Airbus Hopes Refugees Will Break Unions

Airbus A321 Under Assembly at the Mobile Final Assembly Line
Airbus A321 Under Assembly at the Mobile Final Assembly Line

Airbus has a great idea for how to integrate the recent wave of refugees into German society. The company is keen to offer them jobs working at its facilities according to CEO Tom Enders. There is, of course, a catch. Enders believes that the new potential employees should be paid on a separate wage scale and not afforded the same protections as other EU citizens who would work in those same jobs. Here’s a quote in the original German excerpted from his original piece in

Enders schreibt weiter: “Wenn die Eintrittsschwelle in den Arbeitsmarkt zu hoch ist, scheitert die Integration von Einwanderern in die Gesellschaft. Was als Schutzmechanismus gedacht war, wird zum Instrument der Ausgrenzung. Jetzt ist Pragmatismus gefragt.”

And the rough translation (which I’ve cleaned up from what Google offered):

Enders writes: “If the entry threshold into the labor market is too high, the integration of immigrants into society will fail. What was intended as a protection mechanism becomes an instrument of exclusion. Now pragmatism is called for.”

It is unclear, unfortunately, in this excerpt why Enders believes that these potential new employees should be paid less than non-refugees would be paid. Except that he sees the massive influx of potential workers as a huge boon to the supply side of the equation. And the company is apparently willing to tweak the demand to account for that, assuming it can break the rules and get away with a two-class arrangement. He also suggests that the US market has shown “courage” on similar fronts in the past, which is strange since there are still significant union workforces all over the country. Even in Alabama where the newest Airbus Final Assembly Line recently opened, though that work force is not unionized. Yet.

If nothing else it is intriguing to see Airbus try to use the refugee crisis as a means to break the unions.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One Comment

  1. Wow.

    This is unreal. It legitimizes the fears of protectionist immigration policies everywhere. Surely if labor were that much cheaper, they could just move the operation out of the expensive countries; I assume they don’t move out so that they can continue to manipulate the political process to their own ends (e.g. tax benefits and plane orders). That manipulation is a lot easier to do when you’re employing 20,000 skilled voters (erm, workers, sorry) in a region.

    It sounds like they really want to have their cake and eat it, too. Though perhaps it’s really just a negotiation tactic with said unions, as you suggested. I really hope it’s just a negotiation tactic…

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