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Walmart Gives Bonuses to Hourly Employees But Refuses to Increase Their Wages

SPRINGDALE -- Walmart's hourly workers will get an average bonus of 947.81, part of Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s plan to give employees more than $2 billion this year.

Employees who worked for Wal-Mart as of the end of the fiscal year on Jan. 31 will get the bonuses, said Daphne Davis Moore, Wal-Mart spokeswoman. Even hourly employees who were among the 800 laid off at the corporate office in Bentonville in February will get bonus checks, Moore said.

The bonus figures released Wednesday afternoon exclude salaried personnel, she said.

Walmart has about 1.4 million employees in the United States and will pay $933.6 million in bonuses to part-time and full-time employees, according to a copy of a memo from Mike Duke, Wal-Mart Stores president and chief executive officer.

"We have a lot to be thankful for this year," Duke said. Salaried employees didn't get the latest bonuses, most of which were distributed Thursday. About 985,000 employees were eligible for the bonuses, Moore said. *

He described how he was "humbled and honored" to lead the company for the past six weeks, "but never more so than today, because this is the time when I get to say thank you for all that you have accomplished over the past year."

Wal-Mart is one of the few profitable retailers in a down economy. The company reported $30 billion in sales for the four weeks ended Feb. 27, a 2.8 percent increase from the $29.19 billion in sales for the four weeks ended Feb. 29, 2008

The company saw sales increases at two of its divisions:

• Walmart U.S. reported $20.07 billion in sales at all stores for the four weeks ended Feb. 27, an increase of 8.1 percent from sales for the four weeks ended Feb. 29, 2008; and

• Sam's Club reported $3.47 billion in sales, a 3.1 percent increase from the four weeks ended Feb. 29 last year.

Sales in the international division were down due to foreign currency exchange rates, the company reported.

Duke cautioned Walmart employees who got bonuses to "remember people and organizations who are struggling to make ends meet."

Wal-Mart since January eliminated hundreds of jobs, including laying off 800 people from the corporate office in Bentonville; cutting 48 jobs from a call center in Bartlesville, Okla.; and closing a return center in Macon, Ga., which left 400 people unemployed. However, if those employees were paid by the hour, they'll get bonuses as long as they worked for Walmart as of Jan. 31, Moore confirmed.

"I encourage you to give back to your communities -- whether by contributing your time or making a donation," Duke told Walmart employees in the memo.

In addition to bonuses, Walmart employees will get $788.8 million in profit sharing and 401(k) contributions "and hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandise discounts and contributions to the associate stock purchase plan," Duke said.

Walmart calls its employees associates.

Any money in shoppers' pockets is a good thing in a down economy and putting hundreds of dollars in Walmart workers' pockets is a nice gesture, said WakeUpWalmart, a Washington-based lobbying group, in an e-mailed statement.

However, WakeUpWalmart, which is funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, asked the retailer to do more.

"But if Walmart really wants to help their workers move forward in a tough economy, it would offer more than a one-time payment -- it would raise wages," WakeUpWalmart said. "As America's largest retailer with billions in profits, Walmart has the power to raise the floor for all American workers."

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