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Sun 21 Jun 2009 12:06 PM

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BA: No Mideast staff will be asked to work without pay

EXCLUSIVE: British carrier responds to UK media claims that staff will not be paid for 1 month.

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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Geriant 10 years ago

If the CEO gives up his salary in July he will probably only lose about half the US$100k, due to tax, benefits and probably myriad fiddles. For BA in the ME to get all noisy about not asking its people to follow the generous donation of their leader one detects a shrill sound of some marketing hack talking too much to hide realities. Are the planes full? Are the staff happy? Who knows what another six months of recession will bring. I wouldn't like some pilot driving the plane if he isn't being paid.

Brian 10 years ago

For all the anoraks out there, the plane here is a Boeing 757-200 with retrofitted winglets which achieve a 5 per cent reduction in fuel costs. However, these aircraft in the BA fleet are used mainly in their Open Skies operation to North America, so don't go hanging out at the airport hoping to see the illusive winglets. Shame on you AB for getting us all steamed up. You should give up your salary for a month as punishment!

sheraz 10 years ago

Wow !...Geriant...Dude ! need to chill out. You seem to have a take on everything that goes on in my country. Are you unemployed ?...if your are, you seem to have the time to express opnions on everything, maybe your Bosses need to check up on your performance!!!!!

Geriant 10 years ago

Thanks for noticing. I am very much employed, advising people whether to invest in "your" country. It gets more difficult by the day when one reads mindless drivel from people who use the word dude, get personal and ignore the topic. I guess it gives you a nice break from shopping, though.

david mealing 10 years ago

Willie Walshe's requests to staff to cut their annual salary is madness, why should they ? His offer to give part of his salary back is suspect. As a tour organiser I dread having to use BA as a carrier. Why, because the ground staff and the cabin crew are some of the most miserable and arogant that I have ever encountered. And why ? They are led from the top by equally arrogant management. It is not the staff that need to be forced to react to falling revenues but the senior management who you cannot correspond with, cannot talk to and are obviously not led in customer friendly environment which would induce flyers to use the airline and increase revenues. Airlines today have to relate to customers needs and not their own egos. and maybe it is time for the CEO to step down and for BA to have a more user friendly boss.