BA chief turns down £334,000 bonus

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The Independent Online

British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh has turned down a bonus worth £334,000, the second year in a row he has made such a gesture, it was announced today.

Mr Walsh, embroiled in a bitter dispute with his cabin crew, was entitled to a bonus of deferred shares awarded to him by the board for the last financial year, it was disclosed in the airline's annual report published today.



He turned down a similar award last year.



BA also said that his salary has remained frozen at £735,000, the level it was set at in 2008.



Mr Walsh actually received £674,000 last year because he voluntarily gave up his pay for the month of July as the airline was making cost savings.



Nearly 7,000 other employees also took voluntary pay cuts.



BA said that under the remuneration arrangements set out in the annual report, no-one at the airline would receive cash bonuses for the second successive year.



The only other bonus recommended was to finance director Keith Williams, who is taking the £167,000 he is entitled to.



The figures were published as cabin crew returned to normal working after the end of their latest wave of strikes.



Members of Unite have taken 22 days of strike action since March, costing the carrier more than £150 million.



Fresh talks are expected to be held between the two sides, although Unite has warned it was preparing to hold a fresh ballot for industrial action, which could disrupt flights in the busy summer months.



BA said it estimated that the bonus Mr Walsh turned down last year would have been worth more than £500,000.



Writing in the annual report, Mr Walsh said: "I regret that we found ourselves at loggerheads with very valued members of staff at a critical time.



"When we have had the chance to explain our proposals directly, many understand what our agenda is really about - to secure jobs in the airline and put the business on a footing where it can achieve the growth it needs to survive long-term.



"They understand that, without change, British Airways will just shrink and shrink and shrink.



"I genuinely believe it is unfair to say we looked for confrontation. We negotiated these changes over the course of a year and tried repeatedly to answer concerns raised by our staff.



"Our position is clear. We've done some excellent work with the unions over the years and we're happy to work with them. But we can't let them stand in the way of the progress that's needed to make our airline's future more secure."



Mr Walsh said he believed BA's market will recover, but only gradually, adding: "The important thing is that we are ready for it. We've genuinely changed the cost base of our business in a structural way.



"It's not perfect yet and there's more to do. I'm delighted we've been able to do that important work while maintaining a strong operational performance and delivering outstanding customer service.



"The fact that we've done that should give all our stakeholders confidence that we can continue to do so in the future."



BA chairman Martin Broughton said in the annual report: "We have succeeded in introducing permanent cost reductions across the airline, including reductions in crew complements. Regrettably, these changes were met by unjustified strike action by Unite's cabin crew branch.



"Bassa misrepresented the company's position to its members, failed to represent the views of the majority of cabin crew and has been intent on a confrontation with the airline.



"The vast majority of our employees recognise the need for permanent change and have shown great commitment to British Airways during this difficult year."



Mr Broughton said BA's economic recovery depended on how fast the general economy returned to growth.



"We remain cautious on that. We expect the climb out of recession to be a relatively slow one. However, I am convinced that the work we have done over the last 18 months to restructure our cost base and the progress we have made on the challenges we faced at the start of 2009/10, mean we are a far more resilient business today.



"That means we can be confident about surviving through further economic uncertainty. More importantly, it means we will be in a position to achieve higher levels of sustainable profitability when conditions improve. That is very good news for our customers, our staff and our shareholders."

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