Ramblings of Silver Blue

26 Oct

This comes as no surprise

IF we can believe everything we read in the press (which we can’t), this may need to be taken with a grain shaker of salt. However, since Americans are capitalistic by nature, the following article shouldn’t shock anyone. Except that it goes to show how much we, as Americans, have tripped up in the quest for the holy $$.

Wal-Mart memo: Unhealthy need not apply
Report: Document sent to retailer’s board by VP seeks ways to cut health care, benefit costs.
October 26, 2005: 5:56 AM EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An internal memo sent to the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. board proposes numerous ways to hold down health care and benefits costs with less harm to the retailer’s reputation, including hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from seeking jobs, the New York Times said Wednesday.

The paper said the draft memo to Wal-Mart’s board was obtained from Wal-Mart Watch, a pressure group allied with labor unions that says Wal-Mart’s pay and benefits are too low.

The paper said in the memorandum Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for benefits, also recommends reducing 401(k) pension contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits.

The memo is quoted as expressing concern that workers with seven years’ seniority earn more than workers with one year’s seniority, but are no more productive, said the paper, which posted the memo on its Web site

To discourage unhealthy job applicants, the paper said, Chambers suggests Wal-Mart arrange for “all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering),”

The memo also proposed that employees pay more for their spouses’ health insurance, called for cutting the company’s 401(k) contributions to 3 percent of wages from 4 percent and for cutting company-paid life insurance policies.

The memo acknowledged that Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, had to walk a fine line in restraining benefits because critics attacked it for being stingy on wages and health coverage. Chambers in the memo acknowledged 46 percent of the children of Wal-Mart’s 1.33 million United States employees were uninsured or on Medicaid.

Wal-Mart executives said the memo was part of an effort to rein in benefit costs, which have soared by 15 percent a year on average since 2002. Like much of corporate America, Wal-Mart has been squeezed by soaring health costs, the paper said.

The proposed plan, if approved, would save the company more than $1 billion a year by 2011, the paper said.

In an interview, Ms. Chambers said she was focusing not on cutting costs, but on serving employees better by giving them more choices on their benefits. Chambers also said that she made her recommendations after surveying employees about how they felt about the benefits plan.

One proposal would reduce the amount of time, from two years to one, that part-time employees would have to wait before qualifying for health insurance. Another would put health clinics in stores, in part to reduce expensive employee visits to emergency rooms.

Wal-Mart’s benefit costs jumped to $4.2 billion last year, from $2.8 billion three years earlier. Last year Wal-Mart earned $10.5 billion on sales of $285 billion.

Under fire because less than 45 percent of its workers receive company health insurance, Wal-Mart announced a new plan Monday that seeks to increase participation by allowing some employees to pay just $11 a month in premiums.

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