‘Every Day Is Frightening’: Working For Walmart Amid Covid Fear (Pics)
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Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET
Since it began closing stores last month, Walmart has been under siege with workers who are worried they will not be paid before they get sick leave.
The company is also facing workers in dozens of countries as it looks to ramp up production of essential items — and is asking suppliers to meet growing demand for products made with workers who are on call.
As the new school year began, Walmart announced its payroll was on pace with projected demand, but that still meant it couldn’t provide health benefits at least for a few weeks.
If workers get sick, they’ll be paid as long as their absences are short, the company said in an email to employees, “but we believe that will only be true through May.”
Walmart said it is also taking precautions to protect workers from the virus that has killed two dozen people in the United States, while also pushing back employees’ deadlines for going on medical leave.
By the end of the school year, it will begin the transition, said Mike Langford, the company’s vice president of global operations.
“We have to do what’s best for Walmart to operate safely and move forward,” said Langford. He said Walmart is working with suppliers, federal and state officials and health authorities to minimize any potential spread of the virus in stores and stores’ supply chains.
He said the company is still awaiting approval on its new hiring process for new workers, but that when it gets the approval and begins the process, they will open all stores to workers.
Walmart plans to have 1,500 paid employees in its U.S. stores at the end of the school year, down from its peak of 1,700 in the summer.
The company also plans to get more employees from other regions as it ramps up to fulfill the growing demand of essential goods from home.
Walmart began closing stores in phases starting last month in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus.
The new hires will also give Walmart more workers to work at its more than 7,150 stores with minimal