Belfast Telegraph

BA chief Walsh to turn down his bonus

By Sarah Arnott

British Airways' embattled chief executive Willie Walsh is to forego his £334,000 annual bonus for 2009 in the light of the group's record losses, the cost of the volcanic ash cloud, and the on-going industrial dispute with cabin crews.

It is the second year running that Mr Walsh has given up his bonus, turning down more than £500,000-worth of share options in 2008. BA is facing difficult times. The flagcarrier last month reported record annual losses of £531m, even worse than the previous year's £401m black hole. The ash cloud debacle cost it an estimated £100m. A string of cabin crew strikes has also cost it upwards of £100m.

The cabin staff returned to work yesterday after the last of three five-day stoppages in a dispute over pay and conditions stretching back over more than 12 months. Two earlier strikes, in March, cost the company £43m.

ACAS, the conciliation service, is working to set up further negotiations between the two sides. But so far talks have ended in deadlock. And Unite, the trade union, has warned of plans to re-ballot members to establish a mandate for further industrial action over the summer.

Len McCluskey, assistant General Secretary at Unite, yesterday said there would have been "uproar" if Mr Walsh had not given up his bonus.

"There should be no bonus and no mega-pot of shares until BA sorts the cabin crew dispute," Mr McCluskey said, branding the on-going dispute with cabin crews as the "ruination of a great British company".

Although there has been progress in the original row over staffing changes, a subsequent dispute over the withdrawal of travel perks for striking staff and allegations of bullying disciplinary measures has resulted in an acrimonious stand-off.

Mr Walsh expressed regret at the strike yesterday, but stressed the necessity of paring back on the group's costs.

"Without change, British Airways will just shrink and shrink and shrink. Because of the legacy structures we have in this business, we are increasingly unable to serve some popular destinations in our network profitably. We need profitable growth to make this business sustainable," he said.