Wal-Mart to extend employees' holiday hours

Extra hours will help workers - but can they decline the offer?

A Wal-Mart Stores Inc company distribution center in Bentonville, Arkansas June 6, 2013.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A Wal-Mart Stores Inc company distribution center in Bentonville, Arkansas June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Wal-Mart is taking an unconventional approach to seasonal hiring this year by doing away with the longtime tradition of recruiting and training thousands of temporary workers for the holiday crush.

Instead, the world’s largest retailer said it will dole out extra holiday work to its existing employees.

“These extra hours will help staff traditional roles like cashier and stocker, and newly created positions such as personal shoppers and pickup associates,” Judith McKenna, chief operating officer for Wal-Mart U.S., said in a statement. “This is what working in retail is all about, and we know our associates have the passion to do even more this year.”

Wal-Mart employees and labor advocacy groups say the move could help address long-standing complaints among workers who say they are underemployed. Many part-time employees, they said, would like full-time work.

Wal-Mart considers 34 hours a week full time, when workers receive more benefits.

But, the groups added, the new policy also raises a number of questions: Will employees be forced to take on extra hours? Will they be penalized if they take time off during the holidays?

“The struggle to get enough hours has been the No. 1 issue angering associates,” said Dan Schlademan, a spokesman for OUR Wal-Mart, an employee group backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. “We’ve never been able to understand why Wal-Mart continues hiring seasonal workers when there are so many people begging them for more hours.”

Retailers long have relied on seasonal workers to get through the holidays. But with the national unemployment rate nearing a 16-year low, economists say it is increasingly difficult to attract temporary workers for jobs that typically pay low wages.

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