Dude, Where’s My Paycheck?

By Sadie Bass

Jun 16, 2009 11:54am

ABC's Matthew McGarry reports from London: You know you live in uncertain times when it comes down to this: British Airways, the UK’s largest airline, which every year whisks tens of millions of people around the world on its fleet of sleek Boeings and Airbuses, is now claiming so poor that in order to keep taking to the skies on a regular basis it’s seeking handouts from its own employees. And the kind of handouts BA is looking for are far more significant than a little bit of spare change or a dusty old can of green beans you might find way at the back of your cupboard. What BA wants from its army of baggage handlers, flight attendants, maintenance engineers and pilots is more like the kind of cash that makes up a mortgage payment or a monthly food bill, or a summer vacation with the family. BA, which posted annual operating losses of $362 million in May, is now asking workers to volunteer for between a week and a month in unpaid leave or unpaid work.   Chief Executive Willie Walsh, along with a few others at the top-tier of management, has already promised to work for nothing in July and is asking the entire British-based work force to follow suit. "Many of you from across the airline are stepping up to help the company," Walsh wrote in the company’s staff magazine. "I am looking for every single part of the company to take part in some way in this cash-effective way of helping the company's survival plan. It really counts." The new measure would not be compulsory but the company was instead encouraging staff to "play their part", a spokeswoman said. And it all comes at a time when BA is currently negotiating with trade unions for potential staff cuts of up to 2,000 people among the 14,000 cabin crew. The problem is Walsh earns $1,210,222.53 a year, or about $23,274 a week. That’s in a nation where the average British wage earner takes home just $775 a week. While no one questions Walsh’s commitment by foregoing his own salary for a month when his company is jeopardy, it seems like a tough thing to ask from thousands of his workers who are already struggling to pay bills and put food on the table. Surely there’s still a lot more management fat available for the chopping block?

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