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    Wal-Mart Getting More Competitive on Pay Rates; Unions Form at Two China Wal-Marts

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart said yesterday that it has raised the starting rate in more than 1,200 Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Clubs throughout the country, and is taking other steps to make its pay rates and benefits more competitive.

    rate in more than 1,200 Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Clubs throughout the country, and is taking other steps to make its pay rates and benefits more competitive.

    "Wal-Mart pays competitive wages, and we continue to transform our pay plans as we grow," said Susan Chambers, e.v.p. of the People Division for Wal-Mart Stores, in a statement. "These start-rate changes, combined with our competitive benefits like affordable health care, 401K and profit sharing, and annual incentives for our hourly associates, make us an even more attractive employer, which is why people stand in line to apply for Wal-Mart jobs."

    Additionally, Wal-Mart announced that the company was raising pay increases for those associates displaying excellent annual performance and customer service. Discretionary increases will now be reinvested into the annual performance evaluation process, allowing the company to increase the amount of the "above target" reward, which it said affects a larger percentage of associates.

    The company is also implementing new pay ranges, which it claims are wider than those of many other retailers, with the maximum being near the top of the market in many regions. Pay ranges are already used for management and hourly positions at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club home offices.

    Wal-Mart noted that start rates and pay ranges are being reviewed annually and will be adjusted to respond to changes in each market. Any associate paid below his or her facility's new start rates will have his or her pay increased to fall within the new range.

    In June 2004 Wal-Mart announced that the company was implementing a new job classification and pay structure for all hourly associates in the United States. "Those changes, coupled with these recent enhancements will ensure that we have the most appropriate classification and pay programs to meet our growth needs, which has included creating more than 240,000 new jobs over the past three years," said Chambers.

    In other Wal-Mart labor news, employees at two more Wal-Mart stores in China have formed unions. That raises the number of unionized stores in China to four, according to published reports.

    The union votes came after a lobbying campaign by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the umbrella group for unions permitted by the communist government. The group had accused Wal-Mart of blocking efforts to organize its employees.

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