Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Competition for Workers May Drive Up Pay, Benefits Compensation Had Stagnated since Great Recession

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Competition for Workers May Drive Up Pay, Benefits Compensation Had Stagnated since Great Recession

Article excerpt

Better hours, more pay and expanded benefits - after stagnating in the years following the Great Recession, these may arrive in 2016 as hiring managers seek to attract and retain employees from a shrinking pool of workers.

Competition for employees could be particularly intense in retail, food service and convenience stores, where companies are trying to not only hire more people but also move more of them into full-time positions.

A skirmish in the battle for workers has been on display this month in the Keystone State, with two Pennsylvania convenience store chains upping the ante.

Sheetz Inc. announced Jan. 12 plans to boost wages for all store employees to at least $10 an hour - sales associates can expect a 5 percent to 10 percent raise, while supervisors will get 11 percent to 12 percent. The Altoona-based restaurant and convenience store chain, which has 500 stores across six states, plans to hire 8,000 workers in 2016 and continue its annual expansion rate of about 30 new stores.

A few days later, Wawa Inc., a Media-based convenience store chain, said it will increase starting pay for all store workers to $10 an hour. Wawa's shift supervisors will start at $13 an hour and its assistant general managers at $17.

In an indication of how competitive the recruiting issue is, Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the company made the decision before the Sheetz announcement. Ms. Bruce could not be reached for comment.

Sheetz and Wawa are both facing stiff competition from other employers, too.

Wal-Mart said last week it would invest $2.7 billion over two years to give a pay bump to 1.2 million U.S. hourly workers, increasing wages to $10 an hour beginning next month. It also will provide full-time workers basic short-term disability and paid vacation days.

And in advertising six hiring events around Pittsburgh in October, grocery store chain Aldi touted its "generous pay and benefits well above the industry standard." Starting pay for store associates is $11.50 per hour and workers averaging more than 25 hours a week are eligible for health insurance benefits and dental coverage.

It costs money for employers to raise wages and benefits. Sheetz said its promised wage bump will cost the company $15 million. The company reported $6.9 billion in revenue during the 2014 fiscal year.

The changes being announced at companies competing for employees appear designed to counter previous industry strategies in which retail workers might not get a lot of hours each week or might be sent home if business was slow.

"We want to help the part-time worker working multiple jobs select Sheetz as a career," said Stephanie Doliveira, Sheetz vice president of human resources.

That may mean doing things a bit differently.

To both hire more workers and give them more hours, Ms. Doliveira said, requires a better distribution of employees among Sheetz locations, which are often densely packed within a geographic region. There are 45 locations and 1,400 employees in southwestern Pennsylvania alone.

Ms. …

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