ANNE D’INNOCENZIO, AP Retail Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart is raising starting wages for more than 100,000 U.S. department managers and workers in its deli and other specialized departments.
The moves mark the next wave of pay raises by the nation’s largest private employer, which has been under pressure from labor-backed groups for the treatment of its workers. In February, it announced it was increasing minimum wages for entry-level and long-term hourly employees to at least $10 an hour by next February. That increase affected 500,000 of its 1.3 million U.S. workers.
The wage hikes are part of a $1 billion program at Wal-Mart that also includes improving training and offering employees more control of their schedules. The company is hoping that by investing in its workers, its customer service will improve, and ultimately that will encourage shoppers to spend more, helping to perk up sluggish sales at its U.S. division.
In February, Wal-Mart said it would be raising wages for its department managers but didn’t offer many details.
Wal-Mart told The Associated Press late Monday that department managers of complex and service-oriented jobs in areas like produce, electronics and auto care, will start at $13 per hour and top out at $24.70 per hour, beginning next month. Starting next February, they will be paid at least $15 per hour. Previously, the pay range was from $10.30 to $20.09. Meanwhile, those managers of less-complicated departments like clothing, and consumer products like paper towels and luggage, will earn from $10.90 to $20.71 per hour. Previously, they earned from $9.90 to $19.31.
Labor advocates claimed the raises as a victory but called for more.
“Today’s wage announcement, like the last one, falls short of what Walmart workers need in order to raise their families,” the UFCW International Union said in a statement.
Wal-Mart is phasing out the position of zone managers, and reassigning those jobs at its stores to assistant managers or department managers in a bid to offer front-line workers more control over how their areas should be run. At the same time, it’s adding up to 8,000 more department manager jobs.
“There’s a lot of excitement about the new department managers, the level of ownership they take,” Kristin Oliver, executive vice president of people for Wal-Mart’s U.S. division said. She noted the company is testing the new department managers in about 450 of the more than 4,500 stores it operates in the U.S., and the results are encouraging.
Wal-Mart, which is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, also said late Monday that those workers in specialized areas like the deli sections or the wireless areas will earn a wage range of $9.90 to $18.81 per hour. Previously, they started at around $9.20 and topped out at $18.53.
The company had said in February that it was increasing the pay band for its entry level workers like stockers, cashiers and cart pushers. They now will make anywhere from $9 to $17.55. Previously, they made anywhere from $7.25 to $15.15 per hour.
The first wave of raises that took effect in April raised Wal-Mart’s the average full-time hourly wage to $13 per hour, up from $12.85. And the average part-time hourly wage rose to $10 per hour, up from $9.48. Oliver said Wal-Mart is still working on how those numbers will change with the latest wave of increases.
Wal-Mart’s current average is still below the $14.65 average that hourly retail workers in a non-supervisory role earn, according to government data that includes people who work at auto dealers and other outlets that would likely pay more than discounters like Wal-Mart. But it’s above the $9.93 average hourly pay for cashiers and low-level retail sales staff, according to Hay Group’s survey of 140 retailers with annual sales of at least $500 million.
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