BA PROFITS CRASH – as annual car production falls by 55 %

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British Airways boss Willie Walsh yesterday said he could not rule out further job cuts and called on BA workers to take a holiday or go on part-time working.

His warning came in the wake of a slump to an annual pre-tax loss of £401m pounds to March 2009 from a pre-tax profit of £922m a year-earlier.

The loss was worse than BA had forecast. Shares in the airline were down two per cent to 160 pence just after midday, having lost as much as seven per cent earlier in the day.

BA said it had cut more than 2,500 jobs since last summer and added that it was in talks with unions about ‘pay and productivity changes’.

The Unite trade union responded by offering BA a wage freeze.

Steve Turner, national secretary for aviation, said: ‘We have tabled proposals to defer wage costs until an upturn in the company’s fortunes, and are in discussions with BA over further measures that “share the pain” of their current difficulties across the entire business.’

Jim McAuslan, General Secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), said: ‘We are extremely concerned about the implications for our members of what we have heard today.

‘British Airways is facing an unprecedented downturn in trading and this will make the task of agreeing cost-saving measures even more challenging.

‘We will nonetheless continue to work with the company to try and find solutions which will mitigate the effects of the economic downturn on our members.

‘In particular, we will be seeking to avoid any compulsory measures and ensure that changes agreed by our members are recognised as an investment by them in the company’s future.

‘We believe that if pilots are to share the pain then they must, when conditions improve, share the gain.’

BA said conditions in the industry were very difficult and that a recovery would take longer than first thought.

It said it had an operating loss of £220m for the period, reversing year-earlier operating profit of £878m.

Revenue rose to £8.99bn pounds from £8.76bn.

Walsh said in a statement: ‘Reduced passenger and cargo demand and high fuel prices last summer contributed to our £220m operating loss as our total fuel bill reached almost £3bn.’

He warned of ‘the harshest trading environment we have ever faced and, with no immediate improvement visible’.

The results included redundancy-related costs of £78m.

l The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed UK car production fell by a huge 55.3 per cent in April.

A total of 68,258 cars were made in April, with the total for the year to date about 251,268 cars. In April, 56,267 cars were exported, a drop of 53.4 per cent.