Would You Work for Free?

About 40,000 people work for British Airways, which means they show up, do their jobs and get paid. But now, the airline is asking workers to do their jobs for up to a month without the "getting paid" part.

In a letter to employees this week, British Airways said, "The airline fights for survival … people will be able to opt for one-week blocks of unpaid leave or unpaid work."

It's a twist on sacrifices being made by employees around the world. In Connecticut, for instance, Courtney Bosch was given a one-week furlough from Kodak.

"In these times, I was comfortable with it, you know I can honestly say I was happy to still be employed," Bosch said.

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Bosch said she would try to spend the time with her family. But she does acknowledge feeling the pressure to work.

"We are all really kind of tense and on edge, and thinking in these times, you know, I've got to do my job, I've to give 110 percent," she said.

In this economy, despite a sense that everyone needs to chip in and that they're in this together, there are limits.

"It's absolutely a slippery slope if employers expect us to work for free," ABC News workplace contributor Tory Johnson said.

Even if it's voluntary, like it is at British Airways

Fears of Getting Fired

"Employees fear that if they don't show up, work piles up or my furloughed colleague's going to come in and make me look bad," Johnson said.

The global recession has pushed up unemployment rates around the world. Nearly one in 10 U.S. workers is without a job. May unemployment hit 9.4 percent and is expected to reach 10 percent shortly.

For the airlines, the recession has trimmed traffic and caused the highly profitable first- and business-class seats to remain empty. The International Air Transport Association said this week that worldwide airline losses may reach $9 billion in 2009, nearly double a previous forecast.

The real losses can be seen in the front of the plane. Premium traffic in Europe fell 33.6 percent in April compared with April 2008. Premium traffic within North America was down 16.5 percent, and traffic from Europe to Asia fell 26.4 percent.

British Airways said that more than a thousand people have signed up for their no-pay plan, and that there is no sense of coercion, no peer pressure.

Of course, for a few weeks a year, no matter how hard you work, there is also no money.

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