At Northwest, Not All Sacrifices are Equal

Flight attendants and pilots at Northwest are contemplating contract proposals that, in many cases, cut wages by more than 20 percent. Meanwhile, workers see that some executives, managers and salaried workers don't appear to be suffering as much.

Says Shaiken, "The same individuals who are saying, 'We will lose key talent' are the individuals who are going to receive the high compensation."

Among its officers, managers, directors and managing directors, attrition rates have more than tripled since 2001, Northwest said. Last year, 11 officers — executives holding vice presidential or higher rank — departed Northwest, leaving it with 40. Further, large-scale attrition of skilled management employees could be "devastating to Northwest's efforts to reorganize," the airline says.


Overall, the airline has cut about 30 percent — or more than 1,200 — of its salaried and management jobs since 2001. It contributed greatly to about $184 million in total management and non-union payroll savings that Northwest said it has achieved since 2001.

Since December 2004, cash compensation has been reduced 31 percent to 40 percent for Steenland and other officers, according to Northwest.

But you don't see such cuts in compensation reports filed so far. Senior executive compensation for 2005 probably won't be revealed until next month.

Steenland's base pay for 2005 was slated to be $573,750, according to a regulatory filing by Northwest. Steenland's total compensation in 2004 amounted to $4.4 million, including $3.7 million in stock and other awards.

With Northwest's bankruptcy, however, its current stock will likely end up worthless. Top executives, though, will no doubt get shares in a new Northwest.

At United Airlines, which just emerged from bankruptcy, CEO Glenn Tilton received 545,000 shares of stock that vest over four years. Current worth: about $21 million.

Northwest insists pay cuts for management and other salaried employees are "equitable" in light of its goals for cutting union labor costs. But when airlines cut rank-and-file pay more than they reduce managers' salaries, they create morale problems, said Charles Craver, a George Washington University professor specializing in labor and employment law.

"It isn't simply the amount of money being saved, but the appearance of fairness being demonstrated," he said.

Martin J. Moylan can be reached at different jobs, different cuts

While the small number of officers NWA have taken 31 percent to 40 percent pay cuts since December 2004, workers say most other salaried employees aren't getting hit as hard as they are:


Pay cuts for managing directors, directors


Other salaried employees




Proposed for pilots

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