British union member elected co-chairman of Airbus council

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The Independent Online

Britain has a union representative at the head of the European works council for Airbus, the aircraft manufacturer, for the first time.

John James, a member of Unite, was elected to a four-year term as co-chairman earlier this month. Horst Niehus, a German, will serve beside Mr James.



Out of a pan-European Airbus workforce of 55,000, 11,000 are in the UK.The works council has 20 members, four of whom are members of Unite. The company has French, German and Spanish shareholders, but no UK investor since BAE Systems sold its 20 per cent stake three years ago.



"It has always been accepted that the two biggest parties [union members from Germany and France] would be the co-chairs, though the only formal agreement is that they come from different countries," said Mr James. "This shows that the Brits have got some influence in Europe and I want to raise the UK's profile within Airbus."



Mr James joined Airbus from BAE 10 years ago and has been on the committee since 2007. He is now a full-time union official and was previously a semi-skilled fitter.

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