Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wal Mart battles high payroll with new attendance rules


I mention this post in passing because a long time back I used to work for what one man called the "EVIL EMPIRE," and I'm not talking about the former Soviet Union. Personally, I'm not one to hold a grudge and bash Wal Mart for doing what they are doing. That's for the employees there now. I'd like to think I was smart enough to realize where that job would take me and that is why I no longer work there. Plus, I'm not in college anymore so wearing a name badge at this juncture would just be embarrassing!

Part Time Employees is where it's at for Wal Mart. They get to skimp on benefits and lower payrolls by employing more people for less hours and wages. Sounds familiar. So, how come whenever I go there (which I try not to unless necessary) there are never any people working there!? At least not the cash register. Try to find someone to help you find a product in housewares and you'd be better off ramming your head into a brick wall to get through it.

But, I solved that problem. I don't go there anymore. I know everyone says that. But, I don't. I actually drive past 2 Wal Marts to go to Target or Kroger for my stuff. Besides, I know how the management works. If they really wanted people on the cash registrar or to help customers then they would have to take a hit on their annual bonuses. We wouldn't want that now, would we?

Wal-Mart's attendance policy criticized By ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK - At Wal-Mart these days, snowy weather is no longer an excuse for lateness. It had better be a natural disaster like a hurricane or blizzard. And being 10 minutes or more tardy for work three times will earn you a demerit. Too many of those could get you fired.

It's all part of a revised attendance policy implemented earlier this fall that makes Wal-Mart Stores Inc. hourly workers more accountable for excessive unexcused absences and formalizes such penalties. The new rules already are drawing fire from critics who claim they are the latest attempt by the nation's largest private employer to weed out unhealthy and costly long-term workers as it seeks to cut labor costs.

John Simley, spokesman for Wal-Mart, calls the charges by labor-backed groups "invalid" and said the changes are an enhancement of the company's prior policy.

"We are formalizing and enforcing the policy to ensure greater consistency and to minimize subjectivity," he said.

"It is designed to produce a better work environment and a better shopping environment. The result is better communication and a better shopping experience," he said.

Documents furnished to The Associated Press by union-backed Wake Up Wal-Mart show that employees must call an 800 number to report all absences and tardiness by an hour before the scheduled start time. They also have to call their manager with the confirmation code they received when calling the hot line number. In the past, employees got permission directly from their store managers.

"After a year of adopting antifamily policy after antifamily policy, Wal-Mart adds further insult to injury by adopting a new restrictive attendance policy that treats hard-working associates like children while penalizing them if, God forbid, they face a child or friend with a medical emergency," said Chris Kofinis, a spokesman at union-backed Wake Up Wal-Mart.

The group is set to hold its first-ever national conference call with Wal-Mart employees and civil rights leaders Thursday to discuss the latest move as well as other recent labor changes.

In September, Wal-Mart said it will stop offering traditional low-deductible health plans for new hires next year in favor of low-premium plans with higher deductibles. Wal-Mart has maintained that the move will put more health care money and choices in the hands of its more than 1.3 million U.S. workers, but union-backed Wal-Mart critics claim it is pushing the rising costs of health care onto its workers.

Wal-Mart has also received heat from critics for implementing caps on its seven hourly pay grades. Employees who are at or above the cap will not have their pay cut, but they can only get a raise by moving to a higher-paid category.

Wal-Mart isn't the only major corporation grappling with how to cut down on no-shows; unscheduled absenteeism has climbed to its highest level since 1999, according to results released last week of an annual nationwide survey of 326 human resource executives in U.S. companies and organizations.

The survey, conducted for CCH Inc. by the Harris Interactive consulting firm, put the U.S. absenteeism rate at 2.5 percent in 2006, up from 2.3 percent a year ago and the highest since seven years ago when it was 2.7 percent. The survey found that personal illness makes up for only 35 percent of unscheduled absences, with the rest due to family issues, personal needs, stress and an entitlement mentality.

But Pamela Wolf, a workplace analyst at CCH, believes that Wal-Mart's absentee control program seems to be bucking the trend among major corporations to embrace work-life programs that are "designed to recruit and retain workers."

"This doesn't seem to be introducing flexibility to its employees," Wolf said, after being briefed on Wal-Mart's new policy.

Dan Butler, vice president of operations at the National Retail Federation, defended stricter attendance policies like Wal-Mart's, saying "if you don't have controls in place to hold employees accountable, you can't guarantee a certain level of service." But some Wal-Mart employees, whose names were furnished by Wake Up Wal-Mart, said in interviews that the new policy is too rigid.

The new policy reduces the number of unapproved absences allowed to three from the previous four during a rolling six-month period. Employees who have more than three unapproved absences will be disciplined; seven will result in termination, according to the documents. Simley said under the old policy, employees were terminated after six unapproved absences.

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