United replaced its performance-based bonus system with a lottery — and employees are furious (UAL)

  • United Airlines announced a revamped bonus system to its employees on Friday, the Chicago Business Journal first reported
  • The new system replaces quarterly, performance-based bonuses for eligible employees and rewards for perfect attendance with a lottery system, where eligible employees are entered into a drawing for a variety of prizes if the company hits one of three internal performance goals during a calendar quarter.
  • Some United employees were not happy about the change

United Airlines announced a revamped bonus system to its employees on Friday, the Chicago Business Journal first reported. The new system replaces quarterly, performance-based bonuses for eligible employees and rewards for perfect attendance with a lottery system, where eligible employees are entered into a drawing for cash prizes, vacation packages, or a Mercedes-Benz C-Class if the company hits one of three internal performance goals during a calendar quarter.

A United spokesperson confirmed the change to Business Insider, which was announced in an email from United president Scott Kirby. Business Insider obtained a copy of the email, which noted that the company "set all-time records in almost every operating metric," before revealing that the company's performance-based bonus system would be converted into a lottery.

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"As we look to continue improving, we took a step back and decided to replace the quarterly operational bonus and perfect attendance programs with an exciting new rewards program, called core4 Score Rewards, which includes quarterly prizes like luxury cars, vacation packages and a grand prize of $100,000," Kirby wrote.

Under the new system, eligible employees are entered into a drawing to win one of six prizes if the company hits at least one of three internal goals during a calendar quarter. Prizes include $2,000 cash (which 73% of the chosen employees will receive), a Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan (which starts at $40,250), and $100,000 cash.

The email indicates that a maximum of 1,361 employees will receive a bonus each quarter. The company has about 88,000 employees.

United employees are furious

United employees were not happy about the change, said Ken Diaz, the Association of Flight Attendants' president at United. While he noted that the new bonus system is separate from the airline's profit-sharing payments, he said the new system contradicts the company's principles.

"The new United has been built on the principle of 'shared purpose' and it only makes sense that the fruits of that united effort would mean shared reward," he said in a statement to Business Insider. "With this move, there's no doubt management has succeeded in achieving a united voice with all employees, but that voice is entirely opposed to and offended by this new 'select' bonus program. Being 'caring' cannot be choosy."

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Other employees expressed similar feelings in posts from an internal employee website reviewed by Inc.

"This is insulting and a poor idea, to put it mildly," one pilot reportedly wrote.

"Awful idea. [Current] bonus program has everyone pulling in the same direction with a common goal. This is scratching a lottery ticket...," another pilot reportedly wrote.

While the bonus system's primary appeal is the chance to receive a larger bonus than under the previous program, some employees reportedly wrote that they wouldn't want to win one of the larger bonuses.

"I would be embarrassed and mortified to win this lottery," one flight attendant reportedly wrote to Inc. "I win at the expense of tens of thousands of fellow employees? No thanks."

Other employees pointed out that perfect attendance was required to be eligible for the new bonus system, which some employees believed meant they wouldn't be eligible if they took any sick days during the relevant quarter. One pilot reportedly said this would be unfair to single parents who may have to take care of a sick child at a moment's notice.

"Imagine your child coming home sick from school, no fault of your own," the pilot reportedly wrote. "You are faced with calling in sick thus losing your 'chance' at a bonus or leaving your child/children home alone to care for themselves. What a terrible situation United has put that person in."

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