Eastern Airlines announced yesterday that it is giving each of its 39,000 full-time employes a bonus of 10 shares of the company's common stock. Part-timers will get five shares.
Frank Borman, Eastern's president and chairman, said the stock, which closed at 7 5/8 on the Big Board yesterday, was being given partly in recognition of the employes' role in putting the company on a profitable path during the second half of the 1970s when they accepted a one-year wage freeze and then an earnings program that tied their salaries to the profitability of the company.
In return for the 10 shares of stock, however, each employe is also being asked to work even harder for increased productivity in order to keep fares down in the face of inflationary pressures, Borman said. "We employes will have to offset some of the inflationary pressures simply through more effort," he said.
The former astronaut said his call for productivity gains was a major factor in his decision to distribute stock rather than a straight cash bonus. "In a rapid inflationary spiral such as we're experiencing today, the value of money is quickly diminished. But this stock is a solid piece of the company.
"If we devote ourselves to increasing the value of the stock, we will be helping both ourselves and the company," he said.
The stock distribution is being made from among 420,000 shares of stock Eastern announced it was buying back in November. Altogether, the stock was worth about $3.6 million.
Since taking the controls at Eastern in December 1975, Borman has had a flair for boldness in turning the company from what many thought was certain bankruptcy to profitability. Besides the wages freeze and the variable earnings program he got the employes to accept, he took advantage of the European Airbus Industries' desire to crack the American market to work out an extremely advantageous program to acquire the fuel-efficient and quiet A300 jet plane.
Although 1979 will be another year in the black for Eastern -- its fourth in a row -- skyrocketing fuel costs and an increased number of passengers flying on discounted fares are expected to keep 1979 profits considerably below 1978's record level.
Eastern faces intensified competition on its Florida routes this winter as both United and Trans World Airlines begin extensive services.