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Walmart to raise wages for 500,000 US workers

By Kim Gittleson

(BBC)…US retail giant Walmart – the nation’s largest private employer – has announced plans to raise wages for more than 500,000 hourly employees at its US stores.

Walmart said that it would raise salaries for 40% of its staff to at least $9 per hour – $1.75 above the US minimum wage.

That hourly floor would be raised to at least $10 per hour by 1 February 2016.

The retailer has recently been under pressure from labour groups.

In a blog post to workers, Walmart’s chief executive Doug McMillon acknowledged that a tough economic environment combined with shifting consumers habits had made Walmart institute some changes, which could have been detrimental to workers.

“We … made a few changes aimed at productivity and efficiency that undermined the feeling of ownership some of you have for your business,” he wrote.

“When we take a step back, it’s clear to me that one of our highest priorities must be to invest more in our people this year.”

Shares in Walmart fell 2.8% in early trading on news of the employee programme.

So proud

A coalition of workers known as OUR Walmart – which is backed by traditional US labour unions – have been staging one-day strikes over the past two years demanding the retailer raise wages and improve its scheduling for workers, among other concerns.

Continue reading the main story

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

LAST UPDATED AT 19 FEB 2015, 11:35 ET*CHART SHOWS LOCAL TIMEWal-Mart Stores Inc. intraday chart

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Emily Wells, one of the leaders of OUR Walmart and a Walmart employee earning $9.50 per hour in Florida, said in a statement: “We are so proud that by standing together we won raises for 500,000 Walmart workers, whose families desperately need better pay and regular hours from the company we make billions for.”

In addition to raising the base wage for many workers. Walmart also said it would increase the wages paid to supervisors, as well as work to find ways to be able to schedule worker shifts further in advance.

It also said it would invest in worker training programmes, to encourage Walmart employees to advance within the organisation.

Growing concern

Over the past two years, increasing attention has been paid to the plight of low-wage workers in the US economy, as rising income inequality has become a global concern. US President Barack Obama has said he supports raising the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour, although some US states have set higher floors.

In his State of the Union address to Congress in February, he said: “If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.

“If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

Tsedeye Gebreselassie, a senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project said “if you look at where the jobs have grown particularly since the recession ended, it’s been disproportionally in food services along with retail and other low wage sectors”.

She added: “These are in fact the jobs where more and more American adults are spending their careers, and low wages in retail industry are not keeping up with the cost of living.”

While she said the move by Walmart to raise wages was clearly a victory for labour organisers, she cautioned that a full-time worker earning $10 an hour would still make only $20,000 per year – still below the poverty threshold in the US.

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