Nation & World

Walmart workers brace for job cuts

New program was debuted to enable 'meaningful work'

Walmart workers stock items in a Las Vegas, Nev., store this past November. (Associated Press)
Walmart workers stock items in a Las Vegas, Nev., store this past November. (Associated Press)
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Walmart last spring said it was testing a sweeping change that would make its stores better run and create more opportunities for employees to “do meaningful work.”

The “Great Workplace” initiative, the retailer said, would be “the key to winning the future of retail.”

But nearly a year in, workers say the effort, which will reach 1,100 of the company’s 5,300 U.S. stores by year end, has led to widespread confusion.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, is telling employees that it is doing away with certain positions — including hourly supervisors and assistant store managers — and replacing them with a smaller set of roles that carry more responsibilities, often for the same pay, according to interviews with current and former store employees, and internal documents obtained by the Washington Post.

Workers say they are being asked to apply, interview and test for new positions, essentially pitting them against their colleagues for a shrinking number of jobs.

Some are terrified they will lose their job and insurance.

“Everyone’s on pins and needles right now,” said a customer service manager at a Neighborhood Market in South Carolina who has been working for Walmart for 14 years. As with other workers, she spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared retaliation.

The store where she works, she said, is replacing six customer service managers with four newly created positions. Employees who don’t make the cut will either be terminated or asked to apply for lower-paying positions, according to two store employees briefed on the transition.

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“People are worried they’re going to lose their jobs, their homes, their cars,” she said. “It’s very tense.”

The changes, executives said, are part of a broader plan to rethink the way stores and distribution centers operate as more sales move online.

Walmart has been investing heavily in advanced robots that can stock shelves, sort deliveries and scrub floors as it goes head-to-head with Amazon to stake out the future of retailing.

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