fullandfrankexchange

To strike or not to strike & what’s a fair wage?

In Politics on April 2, 2010 at 9:20 am

Dastardly Dave Cameron and his posh chums have been making much of Grumpy Gordon Brown’s woes with his brother in the unions as British Airways staff and the RMT go head to head with employers.

One thing that has emerged, in the BA issue especially, is the notion that BA staff are somehow “overpaid”. In comparison with some jobs, probably. In comparison with a lot of others (bankers, take note), definitely not. From early research the best we can work out is that the top salary cabin crew can earn is around the national UK average.

Should we really begrudge someone a decent income who, let’s face it, has a crappy job in many ways? BA set the industry standard for many years in terms of wages, and we didn’t hear the company complaining about it then. The problem has been the likes of Virgin and other low-cost carriers who have sprung up and employ “Thatcher’s children”, those that have no knowledge of collective bargaining by trade unions and happily accept whatever terms companies lay down in front of them.

That’s not a leftist rant, it’s a statement of fact. Those same people happily work for less – and it’s half or less than half of the best BA salary – are grateful just to have a job and are keen to provide a smiling service (on the whole). BA cabin crew could take a lesson from this. The last couple of occasions we have flown with them the surly attitude of the staff has been enough to make us refuse to fly with them again (for now) and we’re hardly in a club of two on that score . Of course, they could be surly because Willie Walsh is making their lives a misery, so we end up with a vicious circle of management pissing off the staff who in turn take it out on the poor old customer.

The other extreme is Air Asia X, a no-frills long-haul carrier operating out of  Kuala Lumpur. Staff costs to the company there per head are around 600-650 pounds a month. Chief executive Azran Osman-Ran told the BBC  Radio Four’s The Report this was 30 percent of salary.

“They have to earn 70 percent from flying, so if you call in sick and you don’t come to work you don’t get paid, and secondly they earn commissions from selling food, beverage and merchandise on board (on a long haul flight??!!). And we have no unions, so we don’t have strikes, so that’s another advantage I suppose,” he said.

Lessons for both sides there. Innovation brings lower costs (allegedly), but can you imagine turning up for work feeling genuinely ill knowing that taking a sickie is actually going to cost you money? Not sure we’d want to fly in a pressurised tin can at 30,000 feet with someone who might only have a nasty cold, but has no option but to share the love, as it were.

So are BA staff too pampered, or should poor old Air Asia X staff be allowed to have a sick day? What’s a decent wage?Don’t have to tell us what you earn, but would love to know what you think.

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