BA said about 17 per cent of its 40,000 workforce had signed up to cost-cutting options, including periods of unpaid leave and switching from full-time to part-time work. The news follows CEO Willie Walsh’s heavily criticised plea for workers to follow his example and work unpaid for a month.
The Independent said the news could be seen as ‘impeccable corporate loyalty or darker insecurity’. The Guardian noted the figures were higher than expected and said ‘Walsh hasn’t been embarrassed’. Walsh himself said: ‘This is a fantastic first response.’ But union Unite criticised BA for bullying and harassing its members.
Who are the PR players?
The airline runs its comms operation almost exclusively in-house under head of corporate comms Julia Simpson. It has used Brunswick for several financial PR projects in recent years, but has no retained City agency. It took consumer PR back in-house from Porter Novelli last year.
What happens next?
When BA’s £735,000-a-year CEO asked his employees to copy him in giving up a month’s wages, it was widely criticised in the press – and, at first, it looked like a PR disaster in the making. But the response of its staff has helped BA defuse the story and show that employees are committed to keeping the airline in business. The major problem is that these savings represent a drop in the ocean. The pay cuts will save ‘up to £10m’, but this figure pales into insignificance against BA’s £400m losses last year. BA will need more than 17 per cent of its staff to forgo wages to get back in the black.
Yesterday British Airways called in a conciliation service to help broker a deal with unions on job cuts to avoid a strike. The airline wants to cut over 3,000 jobs and freeze pay for other staff.