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British Airways Wants Staff to Work for Free

This article was written by in Career and Work. 5 comments.


Would you work for free? I used to work for a non-profit organization whose business model was not exactly built around the concept of making money. Before I joined the organization, there were times of low or negative cash flow during which the staff were asked to accept a delay in paychecks for a month or two while the company managed to bring in some income.

The management of British Airways is now asking its staff to go without pay for a period of time between a week and a month. Rather than a delayed paycheck, these employees would not be paid for the time they work or they could take an unpaid leave of absence. The executives would join the employees

Is this a better option for employees than asking them to take a pay cut? A salary reduction might negatively affect future salary growth, while a break in pay might cause household cash flow problems. This is the danger of the employers’ market when compared to an employees’ market. Companies can get away with asking employees to make sacrifices they might not normally take if they believed it would not be difficult to find a job elsewhere.

Have you ever been asked to make a significant sacrifice in pay like the employees of British Airways, other benefits, or your sanity for the good of your company? If you have been asked, did you agree to make the sacrifice? And why?

Photo: lrargerich
Reuters, June 16, 2009

Updated April 24, 2012 and originally published June 18, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Richard

WW should be offering to pay employees with shares, if there’s no cash for them. This is standard practice in cash-strapped start-ups.

The employees are being told they should work for nothing because they are stakeholders in the company. Until they actually own part of it, this isn’t the case at all. It’s fair enough for shareholders to ask (not compel) employees to work for nothing, but only if their efforts are materially recognised.

Incidentally the pilots are getting such a package in return for pay cuts.

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avatar i.b.

[apologies for the length of this.... sorry you asked? (; ]

the company i still work for delayed our pay (much indefinitely) several times around 2002-2004 most of which wasn’t paid back till MUCH later. i got the bulk of it just last year (2008) and that was after pressure! i still feel weird and taken about the whole thing eventhough i got interest on the remaining amount. it was incredibly difficult even though limited advances were available. i tried to find another job (that was better or same in pay/benefits in long run) and could not find anything better. i also temped at the urging of one of the owners which i regretted ever since. i was paid at a much lower rate when i temped as opposed to working at the place not paying (paid later, my regular rate was higher than temp rates). i resented the whole thing because no one else besides me was pressured to temp and payroll during that time was very irregular and chances would have it while i was at a temp gig, everyone at the my regular company office would get paid! this happened more than once. certain people got paid the back pay sooner than others. it’s been a real mess accounting wise too. why did i stay you may ask? it was and still is a better job than any others i have found for me (for various reasons). there of course came certain additional freedoms and leeways too when all this started to go down (in addition to many we already had). i come in when i want and no one says anything about it, no matter how weird my hours might be. that is just one example. ever since they didn’t pay us on time on a regular basis, i never bothered to make it in the office on time — it just made me feel a little better removing personal requirements, like they did not deserve certain things of me. now that we are all paid up, i still don’t care that much. however i DO and always have work hard and do a good job at what i do, come in every single day, put in my time, am loyal. to a fault. and always put out fires and keep things going here.

oh, i should add, i worked a second job for a while at the local market every single weekend and occasionally after work hours during the week. this helped me immensely in paying down unsecrued debt i had incurred before 2000 (which was also stressful). this was around the same time all the stuff went down but when we began to be paid more regularly (just no back pay yet) and i was past temping.

part of the problem during those years the company could not get loans that were sufficient and almost went under. cash flow has ALWAYS been a problem here. it’s a lot more even keel these days with much less hiccups. still kind of a mess though (i know because i see everything finance related).

earlier this year i overheard the owners offering our company for sale to someone we have sold customers to (no one was supposed to hear it). it made me worry about my job longevity since new ownership can really mean anything goes. nothing has come of it yet, so maybe i am still safe for a while. i have worked here since 2000 and it’s in tech industry. i realize no one is ever really *safe* but when the illusion of safety is lifted, it can be terrifying. the current owners still feel they kind of owe us in a way i believe and it would take A LOT to be fired for example, for us originals who stuck it out. i continue to try to remind/show my value at the company and find more ways to be.

i have outside interests and no degree, although i have lots of experience and do very well in front of people (like in interviews). for this reason, i have not moved on, although i have looked for other things. extremely hard to get considered when you don’t have a degree eventhough it has nothing to do with many jobs! i also freelance.

so yeah, plugging away at adding to my emergency funds.
ironically (sort of), during the most stressful years, i was able to sock away $7k to emergency fund because i was so freaked at being jobless! (i’ve worked continuously and been on my own since i was a teen)

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avatar H Lee D

We had options laid out for us this year and were given the option to choose which we prefer. Basically, there were 4 different scenarios of “pay cut plus reduction in force” — more pay cut equalled fewer jobs cut and smaller class sizes (I work in a public school district); less pay cut meant larger class sizes and fewer teachers.

We ended up getting a 3% cut. I don’t remember what percent of teachers that meant we lost district-wide, but at my school, we had 22 K-6 homeroom teachers last year, and next year we have 15. Our insurance also changed. We went from copays only to deductibles plus copays (thank goodness we didn’t have that 2 years ago!). From the looks of it (though our state hasn’t approved a 09-10 budget yet, so the fate of schools next year remains up in the air), we will have very little to no budget for classroom supplies, so either we will do without or will spend more money on our classrooms. (Last year, our soft money vanished in January so we had what we had until it ran out — pencils, copy paper, erasers, markers, etc. It wasn’t pretty.)

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avatar Mike

I certainly wouldn’t want a pay reduction, but I’d take a reduction to save my job over losing my job because they can’t afford so many workers with reduced demand for a product or service.

It’s not pretty, but that’s what needs to happen to help end the recession. That’s one reason why the Great Depression lasted so long, the Gov’t forced businesses to not lower wages, so they couldn’t afford to hire as many people. Prices need to fall in order to get out of this mess quicker.

Enlighten yourself: http://mises.org/story/3488

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avatar Ben Kent

Doesn’t this fall foul of Minimum Wage laws?

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