British Airways insisted on Sunday that it has no intention of forcing its Middle East employees to work for one month without pay.
The British carrier was responding to reports in the UK that its chief executive Willie Walsh had asked staff to sacrifice one month’s wages for the company’s long-term health. Walsh added he would work for free in July, giving up around $100,000 of his $1.2m annual wages, and encouraged BA workers to follow suit.
But when contacted by Arabian Business, a spokesperson for the airline’s Middle East operation said reports about BA asking staff to work without pay next month were wide of the mark.
“We have not and have no intentions of asking any of our employees to work without pay,” the spokesperson said. “Like many other companies worldwide, we have launched a scheme across our entire network where staff can volunteer to take part in cost-saving initiatives.
“Options include taking voluntary unpaid leave, moving to temporary or permanent part-time working or even relinquishing some annual leave. We’ve offered a wide range of options and all are voluntary. We’ve already seen a very positive take-up with a total of more than two thousand employees already signed-up.”
The Voluntary Working Options scheme, available to all BA employees worldwide, was introduced to stem the airline’s $660.9 losses for 2008.
Like most airlines, BA has struggled to cope with waning passenger demand and last summer’s $147 oil prices amid the global recession.
“British Airways, along with all airlines, is facing the toughest trading environment ever,” the spokesperson said. “We are asking all staff across the business to play their part by volunteering to work part time or take unpaid leave to help reduce the overall cost base of the airline.”
Suggestions that employees who refuse to take up the scheme will be most vulnerable if redundancies are carried out were dismissed by BA.
“There is no obligation to take one of the voluntary options and an individual’s decision will have no bearing on any future decisions,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also said any redundancies were unlikely to affect Middle East workers. “We said on May 22 that we are in talks with unions to reduce costs and improve productivity across the airline, and that 2,500 people had left the airline since last summer.
“The Middle East is an area of growth for us and we have an exceptionally streamlined and efficient organisation here.”
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