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It’s a real shame that BA’s CEO Willie Walsh isn’t a warm and cuddly personality. We might view yesterday’s revelation that 40,000 staff have been asked to work for no pay for up to four weeks, made via the company’s in-house newspaper in a different light. In a ‘we’re in this together’ light perhaps.
The offer: “Colleagues are being urged to help the airline’s cash-saving drive by signing up for unpaid leave or unpaid work. From tomorrow people will be able to opt for blocks of unpaid leave or unpaid work, with salary deductions spread over three to six months, wherever possible.”
The fact that this offer was taken to the unions rather than being imposed is interesting indeed. An uncharacteristic, touchy-feely message from a decidedly uncharismatic leader. So why this new approach? Is Mr Walsh attempting to change his image, or is it purely self-serving? The CEO and CFO, Keith Williams, have both offered to waive their wages for July in an attempt to set a precedent. And as one might expect, the offer has been met with ridicule from the unions who quite rightly point out that the two board members can well afford to go without pay for a month.
From an altruistic view, a relatively small contribution from each employee serves the greater good. It will keep many thousands of people in work and prevent the inevitable downward spiral of knock-on economic effects.
And whilst many are commenting on the necessary emergence of a new global culture, one of shared risk and reward, I feel that we are a long way off. Can you afford to take unpaid leave or keep working for no pay? If you are on the board of BA, perhaps. A baggage handler in Terminal 5? Perhaps not.