Walmart to let workers add denim pants to work wardrobe
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is hoping denim pants will raise the spirits of its more than 1.2 million US store workers.
Starting July 1, workers at the nation’s largest private employer will now be able to wear khaki or black denim, in addition to the slacks of the same color allowed before. Workers in more rigorous jobs like unloading merchandise or the garden area will be able to wear T-shirts and blue jeans.
It’s among several changes Walmart’s US division is making in response to complaints from workers about their jobs, from big issues like the lack of flexibility in scheduling and pay to smaller gripes like the redundant music piped into its stores.
The relaxation follows a dress code mandated last September that included white or navy collared shirts with khakis or black pants and a navy blue vest. Walmart is paying only for the vest, igniting a flurry of complaints from workers.
The new policy doesn’t change that. Workers will still have to buy their own shirts and pants.
The latest move was announced at a pep rally for US workers on Wednesday at the University of Arkansas, about a 45-minute drive away from its headquarters in Bentonville, and comes two days before the annual shareholders’ meeting.
The changes are being spearheaded by Greg Foran, formerly head of Walmart’s China business who took the helm of Walmart’s US division last August and aims to rev up sluggish sales.
The company, which has been under pressure from labor-backed groups for its treatment of its workers, announced earlier this year that it’s increasing the minimum wage for hourly entry-level workers to $10 per hour by next February as part of a $1 billion investment that also includes improved training.
Earlier this week, the company said it was raising starting wages for more than 100,000 US department managers and workers in deli and other specialized departments.
‘‘I love hearing what’s working, what’s not working,’’ said Foran, who has visited 150 of the 4,500 stores since August. ‘‘Our job is to make your life easier.’’
Walmart is also equipping all its department managers with more advanced mobile devices by October so they will be able to quickly check store inventory.
It’s also bringing back music to its stores and will have a DJ based in its corporate marketing department that will pick the music piped to all the stores. Before it was allowing stores to pick their own music, which sometimes led to a single CD being placed on endless repeat.
The company is also bringing back the slogan ‘‘Our people make the difference’’ on worker name tags.