Just before Christmas Walmart announced it would raise the base pay for employees at 1,434 stores because of state minimum wage hikes. Today, the company announced plans to change the way it pays and trains not only those employees but nearly 500,000 more across the U.S.
The Associated Press reports that the company plans to spend $1 billion on training and wage increases for about 40% of the 1.3 million people the big box store employs.
The changes, which will take effect over the next year, provide a variety of wage raises to different positions at the retailer.
Officials with the nation’s largest retailer say the starting entry-level wage will be at least $9 per hour in April and increase to at least $10 per hour by February 2016. Employees at Sam’s Club will also see a pay increase to at least $9.50 or higher by April, and at least $10.50 or higher by next year.
The company’s plan also includes raising the pay range for each store position. Currently, cashiers – the lowest paid position at the company – have a pay range of $7.65 to $16 per hour. Under the new plan that range would increase to $9 to $17.55 per hour.
Starting managers can expect to see a wage increase from at least $13 by this summer to at least $15 next year.
The AP reports that the company will give newly hired workers a $9 per hour training rate, which will increase to $10 per hour once they successfully complete a six-month training program.
In addition to wage increases, Walmart officials say they will also invest in a more robust training program including hands-on instruction in teamwork, merchandising, retail fundamentals and communications.
The retailer is also testing a new program that would offer workers fixed schedules; meaning they would work the same hours each week.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, who vaguely promised to raise wages for the company’s lowest paid workers back in October, tells the AP that the changes are being made because the company realizes it needs to do more than just pay more.
“We are trying to create a meritocracy where you can start somewhere and end up just as high as your hard work and your capacity will enable you to go,” McMillon tells the AP.
For the past several years, Walmart has come under scrutiny by labor advocates, unions and employees who claim the company underpays workers. The retailer has maintained that the average full-time hourly wage is $12.92, but critics said the figure doesn’t take into consideration the many employees who are not considered full-time because the company has reduced the number of hours they work each week.
Thousands of workers and advocacy groups have protested the retail giant in recent months for its continuous low pay and working conditions.
In late December, the company announced that in order to be in compliance with more than two dozen state’s minimum wage laws, it would increase the pay for 1/3 of its workers during 2015.
At the time Reuters reported that the company’s lowest paid workers would see a bump in pay, narrowing the wage gap between low-earning workers and the higher-paid skill jobs like deli associates and supervisors.
While the wage increases are likely a welcome addition for employees, they come just four months after the company announced it would cut insurance benefits for more than 30,000 part-time workers.
Nearly 40 Percent of Wal-Mart’s US Workers to Get Pay Raises [The Associated Press]