Wal-Mart to lean on temp workers

A new report uncovers the retail behemoth's eyebrow-raising new hiring strategy

Published June 13, 2013 10:32PM (EDT)

First it broke its ban on Bangladeshi garment factories. Now comes news that Wal-Mart is increasingly relying on temporary workers to staff its U.S. stores.

A new Reuters report reveals that 20 of 52 surveyed outlets are only hiring temps, an abrupt departure from company policy. (Typically, the behemoth retailer recruits temps during the busy holiday shopping season). Wal-Mart's U.S. chief executive Bill Simon has confirmed the increase in temp workers, internally called "flexible associates," but company spokesman David Tovar denies that Wal-Mart is ratcheting up its temp workforce to cut costs.

Tovar instead explains the policy shift as a way to ensure that stores are staffed appropriately during busy hours, and that full-time workers still make up most of its U.S. workforce. Still, hiring temp workers could help Wal-Mart save money in the face of impending healthcare reform and growing competition from rival big box stores.

Store managers admit pressure to hire temporary workers. "Everybody who comes through the door I hire as a temporary associate," a store manager in Alaska who asked not to be identified told Reuters. "It's a company direction at the present time."

By Theresa Fisher

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American Jobs Economy Unemployment Wal-mart