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My Wal-Mart, My Ass!

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Wage caps [Aug. 7th, 2006|07:50 pm]
My Wal-Mart, My Ass!


[mood |working]

I'm really ticked off about this, even though it doesn't directly affect me.

In short, management just explained today that the company is putting an upper cap on earnable wages, determined by the person's current pay class. At this store, for pay class 2 (most associates), the wage cap is about $15. Given that the base rate of the store is $7, this means that it would take 20 okay yearly evaluations (at +40 cent raise per eval) or 14 excellent yearly evaluations (at +60 cent raise per eval) to actually attain that amount. Once you reach that amount, though, you cannot receive any raise (unless you are promoted/transfer to a higher position.)

This doesn't directly affect me. After being with the company for over five years, I'm at pay class 1 and earning slightly under $10. Assuming normal evaluations, it would take me over ten years to reach $14 (I think that the cap for pay class 1 is $14.something, so $14 is a reasonable approximation.) In short, unless the company actually gives me raises, it'll take me over ten years to reach my pay cap.

Of course, merit raises are no longer allowed for the company, so evaluations (and promotion -- except that I have a weight restriction, so there's practically no other job in the company that I can achieve) are the only way to go here. So in about 11 years, I'll no longer receive yearly raises.

Anyone who happens to be paid more than the cap (say, someone who actually did very well and gave 25 years of service) will not have their pay cut (though apparently there's some sort of 'let's sit down and chat' thing that might be just 'you don't get raises anymore' or might be 'get the fuck out, you old biddy, or go to part-time, you make too much money.' I saw one woman who'd been called in for a chat with two assistant managers shortly after the announcement leaving in tears.)

Why does this worry me?

Wal-Mart has a history of changing things 'to improve value to the customer' -- shorthand for 'to screw the associate sideways'. Vacation time used to be a guaranteed number of weeks. Now it's a complex mathematical formula (if you don't work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks -- say, if you miss a day for being sick, or if you get sent home early one day because they need to cut back on their budget -- you get less vacation time), and so is sick and personal time earned. The time clock has been changed so that if you're not scheduled for a given day (and time), you have to get a member of management to clock you in (which means, depending on the manager's mood, they may get you in right away, or you might have to spend fifteen minutes proving that it's the schedule that's wrong, not you). If they have to raise the starting pay rate for a store (say, by a dollar), instead of upgrading associates each a dollar, they have a process to determine whether that associate is already making enough money that they don't have to give them the dollar or not.

When Wal-Mart makes changes to its policies on matters of wages, it's generally a bad sign. Wal-Mart's internal "Daily News" publication is full of complaint-oriented articles about cities trying to raise the minimum wage for 'big box' stores like them, forcing them to pay health care, etc.

It really didn't help that at the announcement meeting, they had one manager on call to (as she loudly professed) be the 'devil's advocate' and ask such hard-hitting questions as 'What does it mean that there is a wage cap?' Once associates started asking actual questions about just how badly this would affect their futures, she rapidly switched to pointing out how many great things Wal-Mart was doing in other areas (like, we aren't laying off tons of people yet! Yay!)

In trying to reply to the associates (most of whom were quietly, or not so quietly, depressed or alarmed at the bad omens this ensued), they tried to convince them that Wal-Mart isn't so evil by emphasizing how 'competitive' this was. (As Dilbert would say, 'competitive' means not best. Does that mean we could get a better job elsewhere?)

Further, Wal-Mart offers great health benefits (nevermind that they throw such a STINK when asked to offer these benefits in certain states, or that these 'great benefits' are sometimes really not all they're cracked up to be), and 'other companies would just fire associates who are making too much money and hire two associates that make half as much, so you should feel lucky'.

Oh, and what happens when you hit the wage cap? What motivation is there for you to keep working? 'Well, you still have a job, right? You're here to perform an obligation, and you get paid for that obligation.' Of course, since there's no additional bonus for those overacheivers, there's no longer any motivation to work so darn hard, is there? 'And if you were to go somewhere else, you'd have to start all over at $7 an hour again.'

I dunno. Frankly, I know I have little excuse to be directly annoyed at this -- it's not going to immediately affect me. But considering Wal-Mart's tendencies, it does set an ominous precedent. And the sheer condescending tone of it as expressed by my management staff... bah.