As reported by the New York Times, Walmart is raising its starting wages for store workers, as it battles to recruit and retain workers in a tight retail labor market.
On Jan. 24, the retail giant said in a memo to employees that it was increasing its minimum wages for store workers to a range of $14 to $19 an hour, up from $12 to $18 an hour.
In the memo, Walmart’s chief executive of U.S. operations, John Furner, said the increase was meant “to ensure we have attractive pay in the markets we operate.” The move would immediately affect about 340,000 of the company’s 1.3 million frontline hourly workers in stores across the United States.
For years, Walmart has been under pressure from unions, policymakers and activists to raise its wages for workers in its stores, according to the Times. The raises, which will take effect in March, would increase the average wage across Walmart stores to roughly $17.50 an hour from about $17.
France: Over 1 Million March Against Raising Retirement Age
At least 1.1 million people protested on the streets of Paris and other French cities Jan. 19 amid nationwide strikes against plans to raise the retirement age, according to the Associated Press.
Polls suggest most French people oppose the reform, and Jan. 19 was the first public reaction to President Emmanuel Macron’s plan. The Interior Ministry said more than 1.1 million people protested, including 80,000 in Paris. Unions said more than 2 million people took part nationwide, and 400,000 in Paris.
French unions also announced new strikes and protests Jan. 31, vowing to try to get the government to back down on plans to push up the standard retirement age from 62 to 64. Macron said the measure is needed to keep the pension system financially viable, but unions say it threatens hard-fought worker rights.
Under the planned changes, workers must have worked for at least 43 years to be entitled to a full pension. For those who do not fulfill that condition, the retirement age would remain unchanged at 67. Those who started to work under the age of 20 and workers with major health issues would be allowed early retirement.
Protracted strikes met Macron’s last effort to raise the retirement age in 2019. He eventually withdrew it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Activision Blizzard Won’t Voluntarily Recognize Proletariat Union
According to an Axios report, after workers at Proletariat Inc., a Boston-based game studio that’s part of Activision Blizzard, took steps to organize, studio leaders have declined to voluntarily recognize the union. Instead, they are asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to administer an anonymous vote.
In December, workers believed 57 of them could form a potential union, but Proletariat “currently believes 48 employees are eligible to vote,” according to Activision Blizzard spokesperson Joe Christinat.
The NLRB will determine the proper size, based on eligibility.
The workers say their bosses are “forcing us through an NLRB election, even though a supermajority of our bargaining unit have signed union cards, and that is not pro-worker.”
“We have come to understand that many of our employees prefer to have an anonymous vote,” Proletariat leaders said in a company blog post. “Besides being the fairest option, this also allows employees to get all the information and various points of view. This is an important decision, everyone deserves some time to process it and to better understand its potential impacts.”
More Tech Layoffs Announced
The list of tech layoffs continues to grow as Google and Spotify have both announced cuts to their workforces.
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, said on Jan. 20 that it planned to cut 12,000 jobs.
The job cuts are the company’s largest ever, amounting to about 6% of its global workforce. Sundar Pichai, the chief executive, said Alphabet had expanded too rapidly during the pandemic and must refocus on products and technology core to its future, like artificial intelligence.
Alphabet said U.S. employees would receive a severance package that included 16 weeks of salary, plus two weeks of extra pay for every year they had worked at Google. Laid-off workers will receive six months of paid healthcare. Compensation for workers outside the United States will be determined by local labor laws, the company said.
On Jan. 23, Spotify announced it was cutting 6% of its global workforce. The music streaming company has a total workforce of around 9,800 people, which means the cuts impact about 600 employees.
Laid-off employees will receive an average of five months of severance and continued healthcare coverage, said Daniel Ek, Spotify’s CEO. Immigration support will also be available for workers whose immigration status is connected with their employment.
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