On Thursday, Walmart announced the minimum U.S. wage would go from $9 US an hour this year to $10 in 2016. The move will only affect the chain's lowest-paid, part-time workers, but still represents a raise for about 40 per cent of the chain's 1.3 million American workers.
The $9 figure is also a full $1.75 higher than the federally mandated minimum wage across America of $7.25 an hour, but it's less than the $15 standard targeted by many activists.
Walmart says it was already paying above the mandated $7.25 US minimum wage to all its employees, but the company doesn't disclose the average salaries of its workers.
Walmart also said it planned to make the scheduling of hours more predictable, taking a step towards addressing an issue that has long been a source of worker frustration.
The move is expected to cost the chain about $1 billion US in the current fiscal year. For context, Walmart sold almost $482 billion worth of merchandise worldwide in 2014, and the company posted $16 billion in profit
"These changes will give our U.S. associates the opportunity to earn higher pay and advance in their careers,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement. “We’re pursuing a comprehensive approach that is sustainable over the long term."
Experts say the move could be a benchmark for other chains, as Walmart's practices are frequently held up as a benchmark.
"This is the largest retailer out there, so I think others are going to have to follow," said Brian Yarbrough, analyst at Edward Jones, naming Target and Staples Inc among other national retailers that may look to revise their pay scales. "All the restaurants are going to be under pressure as well."
No change in Canada
Despite that, pay packets in Canada won't be changing any time soon.
In a statement to media, Walmart Canada said it has no current plans to alter its Canadian compensation plans, but notes that the chain already more than exceeds what other retailers do in terms of salaries and benefits.
"All Walmart Canada jobs start above the minimum wage," spokesman Alex Roberton said. "In addition, hourly associates working full time at Walmart Canada on average earn significantly above the minimum wages set by provincial governments across Canada which are also generally higher than government set minimum wages in the U.S.
"Last year the majority of our associates in Canada received a bonus, and all of our associates receive an associate discount of 10 per cent at Walmart stores," Roberton added.
Walmart recently announced plans to expand in Canada, pledging to add 29 stores in Canada this year, a move designed to fill some of the void left by rival Target's impending departure.
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