Monday, April 02, 2007

A Dirty, Rotten Trick

In 1986, Lovely Wife, Number One Daughter and I moved to Bedford, Texas, near Dallas, for me to start work for Delta Airlines.

They weren't paying much, but it was a hard company to get your foot in the door with, and we felt that this was the proper step for us to take at the time.

For a while, I worked two jobs and eventually went from being a temporary part-time (TPT) employee to a permanent full-time one, with benefits and whatnot.

We went into the situation with our eyes open, and I loved working for Delta, but I must admit that finances were tough. Great job, but low pay.

After I'd worked there a few years, Delta made a big announcement that hit all the newspaper's business sections.

See, at the time, I and the other employees hired after January 1, 1985, were "B Scale" employees. A year or two before I was rehired by Delta, they enacted a cost cutting measure by creating a second, lower pay scale, and those of us hired after a certain date were on the B scale. Like I said, things were tight, but I was a big boy and was grateful for the job and wanted to keep it.

So Delta's big announcement to the news organizations was that they were going to get rid of their unfair A and B pay scales and that everyone of the hourly wage earners like myself would use the same pay scale from then on.

Our supervisors and others above us were congratulating us on being brought up to their wage scale. They knew we were making much less money than they for the same job and that they thought the company would be even stronger and the employees happier and more loyal because of this major change.

I'm not exactly what you would call a pessimist, but I absolutely don't believe in rumors until I actually see the difference on my paycheck. I DO NOT like to get my hopes up only to have them dashed, so I refrained from joining the celebrations of my fellow B Scale employees.

And after the new system was implemented, I found to my sorrow that I was entirely correct to have had the wait-and-see frame of mind. Personally, I knew that if Delta were to raise all of our hourly wages up to match the A scale employees, it would cost them many millions of dollars. I just couldn't see them turning around the cost cutting measure the B Scale represented, only a few years after starting it.

Sure enough, this is what actually happened...

Delta did indeed convert from two separate pay scales to one pay scale. Sort of.

There was one pay scale to look at, but folks like me who were B Scale just looked and found our pay rate on the chart as you would think you should. Example: if I had worked three years, I simply looked at the chart for a person with three years seniority, and there was my pay rate.

BUT if the former A Scale types wanted to look at the scale for themselves, they added five years to their actual time with the company, and THEN looked at the new single pay scale.

Understand? Basically the whole thing was a gimmick to make Delta look better in the eyes of the business world.

They hadn't changed one thing; not one person received a raise. The only new thing was that Delta could tell the world that they no longer had a two scale wage system which made them look bad. Purely with smoke and mirrors, Delta now had one pay scale.

Compare two people hired four months apart. One hired in November of 1984 and the other in February of 1985. The guy hired in 2/85 would not make what the guy hired in 11/84 is for five more years.

In actuality Delta never got rid of the B Scale. Lord, you should have heard the moaning and complaining among my coworkers. I was bummed, simply because I sure could have used a raise, but I wasn't surprised.

But I learned that even a supposedly great company like Delta wasn't so great that they wouldn't stomp on their employee's feelings to make themselves look better in the business media and to help their stock price increase, which it did.

I loved working for Delta, and I didn't lose sleep over this scenario playing out, but I DID lose respect for Delta and especially the people who engineered this publicity stunt.

Like I said, a dirty rotten trick. I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story when he got his Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring and the first message he decoded was a commercial for Ovaltine. I walked away from that experience, a little older, and a little wiser.


Hammer said...

Everytime my wife's company makes a big change it is always to the detriment to the employees but they dress it up as a "better plan".

Any company run by a board of directors and stock price is going to push as hard as they can until
something busts then they back off a little.

It's no wonder there is such high turnover and poor loyalty these days.

scribbit said...

What a low blow. I tend to be a bit of a pessimist myself and it tends to save you a bit of disappointment. If things work out better than you expected then you're pleasantly surprised.

Travis said...

That first glimpse into the corporate reality can slap you right upside the head if you're not ready for it.

photowannabe said...

Big Business always seems to put a knot in my stomach. I dislike everything always being about money to the cost of the people.

Norma said...

I think companies could hold employees' respect with some honesty.

This Eclectic Life said...

Stories like this make me glad I work for myself! The boss can be a little bit difficult sometimes, but she doesn't dash my hopes very often. Great comparison to Ralphie!

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