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International retailer sets tone for improved employee pay

Over the last few years, the minimum wage has been a hotly debated topic around the United States, including in New York. Workers have lobbied for increases, citing the difficulty they have meeting daily living expenses. Many employers counter by arguing that paying more to workers would hurt their businesses and hurt the economy. This impasse has left the federal governments searching for answers. Recently, Swedish retail giant Ikea cemented its reputation for fair treatment by announcing it would increase the minimum wage it pays its own workers.

The furniture chain announced it would provide an average 17-percent raise for many of its employees. Individual adjustments will depend on the cost of living where each retail store is located, but the average hourly rate will increase from $9.17 to $10.76 per hour. Approximately half the company's 11,000 hourly workers will see the raise in January 2015.

The company's acting president says Ikea usually bases increases on its competitors' wages, but a new worker-centric approach is part of the company's vision to give its workers the chance for a better life. The company has also expanded its benefits program. Employees now have a unified bonus program and can make retirement fund contributions. Despite the company's wage increase, the acting president says that if the federal minimum wage goes up, the company will welcome it with open arms.

Unfortunately, not all workers are privileged to work for a company that treats its employees fairly. Some employees routinely encounter denial of benefits, unpaid overtime, unsafe or illegal working conditions and other violations of their labor rights. New York employees in similar situations should consult with an employment law professional. A professional can determine whether an employee's labor and civil rights are being violated and recommend the right legal action that will address each situation.

Source: New York Post, "Ikea will raise minimum wage for employees," June 26, 2014

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