British Airways asks staff to work for nothing

LONDON (Reuters) - British Airways, which reported a record annual loss last month, said on Tuesday it had asked its staff to work for free as part of the company’s battle for “survival” in tough market conditions.

A British Airways aircraft makes its final approach at London's Gatwick airport December 7, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

The appeal to its British-based employees, which featured in the company’s staff magazine, asks workers to volunteer for between a week and a month in unpaid leave or in unpaid work.

Chief Executive Willie Walsh, who along with the chief financial officer Keith Williams has promised to work for nothing in July, said the idea was part of BA’s across the board cost-cutting measures.

“Many of you from across the airline are stepping up to help the company,” Walsh said.

“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.”

BA, Europe’s third-biggest airline by revenue, posted annual operating losses of 220 million pounds ($362 million) and scrapped its dividend in May, saying it had suffered from a downturn in air travel and forecast no immediate revival.

It said 1,000 employees had volunteered to take part in a Business Response Scheme launched at the time which allowed staff to take a month’s unpaid leave or to switch to part-time contracts.

Walsh, who earned 735,000 pounds a year, was one of those to sign up.

The new measure, which is designed to be more flexible, would not be compulsory but the company was instead encouraging staff to “play their part,” a spokeswoman said.

Other companies have launched similar schemes in response to the global aviation crisis, including Cathay Pacific, where the majority of its workforce has signed up, BA said.

Last week, the company said it was in discussions with its pilots about taking pay cuts. Walsh has also said there would be more redundancies after reducing BA’s headcount by 2,500 since March last year.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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