| CHICAGO, April 26
CHICAGO, April 26 Tyson Foods Inc, the
biggest U.S. chicken company, said on Wednesday it may raise
wages again for workers at all of its poultry plants, a sign of
an intensifying battle for employees in a tightening labor
The increases would come after Arkansas-based Tyson boosted
base wages for poultry workers by between 3 and 3.5 percent in
November, said Hector Gonzalez, vice president for human
resources operations. The base rate is a pay level workers can
reach after finishing a probationary period.
Under a pilot program, Tyson gave workers at one poultry
plant a bigger increase in November and further raised pay at
another facility in January, Gonzalez said. The company will
evaluate how those increases help attract and retain workers and
affect their performance, he said.
"The pool of available labor is shrinking," Gonzalez said.
Employers are competing for workers as the number of
Americans on unemployment rolls has dropped to a 17-year low.
Last year, companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc,
a Tyson customer, raised wages for hourly workers under pressure
from the competitive job market and labor groups calling for
higher wages at retail chains.
Tyson rivals Sanderson Farms Inc and Pilgrim's
Pride Corp did not respond to requests for comment about
Asked whether Tyson would pass on the cost for higher wages
to customers, Gonzalez said the increases were an investment
that executives "hope to get back in a lot of ways, particularly
through operational efficiencies."
At some facilities, Tyson is "looking for a dramatic
improvement in the numbers of quality applicants to help staff
our plants and avoid creating a scenario where we can't meet the
demand of our customers," he said.
Tyson said it did not have an estimate for the cost of the
In January, the company raised the starting wage at one
union-represented poultry plant to $12 per hour from $10 and the
base rate to $14 from $11.70.
In November, employees at a separate plant saw the starting
wage rise to $13 from $10 and the base rate rise to $15 from
$11.65, Tyson said. That increase was made in lieu of the 3 to
3.5 percent increases at other plants.
Tyson declined to give the locations of the two plants.
The company has also shortened the time for workers at the
plants to reach the base rate to six months from a year,
(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by James Dalgleish)