Amazon increases pay, perks to woo seasonal workers

Amazon increases pay, perks to woo seasonal workers

November 20th, 2015 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Staff File Photo / Heather Vance picks items from a row of shelves to fill orders on Cyber Monday of last year at the Amazon fulfillment center in the Enterprise South Industrial Park in Chattanooga.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Brianna Persinger of Dalton, Ga., plans to use the free shuttle Amazon provides to transport workers to its Chattanooga distribution center when she starts her new seasonal job.

"That's a plus that they offer that," she said Thursday outside a Lee Highway staffing center where she and two friends had been hired to work for the Internet retail giant.

To woo the many needed seasonal workers Amazon hires for the Christmas holiday, the company has added the shuttle and upped its pay rate. Amazon is advertising warehouse jobs that pay as much as $17.50 per hour, in addition to perks such as sign-on bonuses and free transport services.

Staff File Photo / Rows of box sorting stations line the floor of the Amazon distribution center on Cyber Monday last year in Chattanooga.

Staff File Photo / Rows of box sorting...

Photo by Logan Foll /Times Free Press.

"The shuttle is a convenient option for associates as we continuously look to support a variety of public transportation services at our fulfillment center," said Amazon spokeswoman Nina Lindsey.

Amazon announced in October it will add 100,000 seasonal positions across its U.S. network of fulfillment and sorting centers this holiday season, including thousands in Tennessee. The national hiring figure is up from 80,000 people last year.

The $17.50 rate in Chattanooga is for a weekend shift during the holidays and includes a retention bonus paid by the company, Lindsey said. That rate is up from $15.50 it was offering earlier this fall. In addition, the company is offering workers a $200 sign-on bonus.

A year ago at this time, Amazon holiday jobs were paying up to $13.75 per hour with no mention in job wanted ads of sign-on or retention bonuses.

While seasonal workers have to pass a drug test and proof of eligibility to work in the U.S., no high school diploma or GED is required.

In Chattanooga, the company already has about 3,000 full-time employees, not including seasonal workers. Amazon has another fulfillment center in Charleston, Tenn., where it employs about 750 full-timers.

To fuel sales, Amazon announced Wednesday that it plans to offer eight days of holiday deals leading up to Black Friday on Nov. 27. Starting today, the company will add new deals as often as every five minutes at www.amazon.com/blackfriday, Amazon said.

The Seattle-based retailer already had posted a 28 percent climb in North American sales in a quarterly report last month.

But to meet its targets, the company needs employees in the Chattanooga area where joblessness is falling. Hamilton County's unemployment rate in September was 5.6 percent. That's down from 6.6 percent a year earlier. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development will report on Chattanooga's October jobless rate next week but it is expected to be even lower than in the previous month due to holiday hirings by other retail stores and shippers, including FedEx, UPS and the Postal Service.

Whitney Hampton of Dalton, who also was hired by Amazon on Thursday, said the new job will help pay for bills and Christmas presents. She said she hopes to stay on after the Christmas season on a "temp-to-hire" basis.

This month, Amazon expanded its maternity and parental leave policy for employees. Now the company offers up to 20 paid weeks of leave. The benefits apply to all full-time hourly and salaried employees.

"We know our hourly employees at our fulfillment centers in Tennessee will love the new benefits," Lindsey said.

Also, in September, Amazon rolled out its new dedicated classroom at its Chattanooga center as it expands a program that pre-pays 95 percent of employees' tuition for classes in high-demand fields, regardless of whether those skills are relevant to jobs at the online retailer.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.


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