Employers say Bah Humbug! this Christmas; Amazon staff say they want wages not trinkets

In our final news round-up before Christmas: companies are showing their Scrooge side; Amazon workers respond to financial help 'insult'; but Verizon staff will step up to help track Santa for kids:

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Dec 21, 2023
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

Employers say ‘Bah Humbug!’ to bonuses

With just days to go before the ‘big day,’ it seems employers are in Scrooge-mode, with more deciding to cut back on their end of year bonuses than give out some festive cheer. According to the aptly names consultancy, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a firm that advises employers on layoffs, the number of companies opting out of holiday bonuses has this year reached its highest level since before the pandemic. Of the more than 200 US companies surveyed, 34% said they would not be giving out the extra money to employees this year. That’s the highest number since 36% decided against bonuses in 2019, and is notably higher compared to last year, when 27% of companies surveyed opted out of the practice. And, of the companies that are still giving out bonuses, many are giving less. Roughly 15% of those surveyed said they are lowering the amount of their bonuses this year, compared to 11% of companies that said the same thing last year. Meanwhile 24% of the companies surveyed said they plan to give non-monetary awards. “As companies enter 2024, they are doing away with the small tokens of appreciation in favor of saving money during a time of perceived economic softness,” Andrew Challenger, senior vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Amazon staff: ‘We want wages not trinkets’

In a spectacular example of how ‘not’ to do Christmas merriment, a memo to Amazon workers asking them to write to their mascot, ‘Peccy’, to see if their Christmas wishes can come true, has rather embarrassingly backfired. “Are you or someone you know facing financial hardship this holiday season? Peccy wants to help! Write a letter to Peccy. If the Peccy team selects you, some of your holiday wishes could come true,” said the note. But Amazon’s New York warehouse staff were not impressed. “They basically say, ‘Tell us about your hardships, how hard this holiday season is for you,’ [and] if we feel it’s sad enough [then we’ll’] give your family some help,” an employee was quoted by The Guardian as saying. Another employee remarked that they “want wages, and not trinkets.” Peccy – for the uninitiated, is the company’s mascot and cultural ambassador. In 2019, Amazon’s HR director said that the name Peccy represents Amazon’s peculiar ways. “We call ourselves at Amazon very peculiar,” the HR director added.

DHL strike action spreads

A strike by DHL workers at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG ) – the main international hub in the US for DHL Express, is now expanding, including Boston and Los Angeles, with more expected to join. More than 1,100 DHL Express workers who are members of Teamsters Local 100, part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters trade union, began a strike against labor conditions at CVG on December 7th. But the Teamsters union represents more than 6,000 members at DHL across the US, and the widening strike now has potential for widespread supply chain disruption during what is traditionally the peak season for air cargo. “As pickets expand to even more cities in the coming days, DHL will feel the pain even more profoundly.,” said Bill Davis, president of Local 100. He added: “Instead of playing games, I strongly recommend that DHL rectify their unfair labor practices, return to the bargaining table, and begin negotiating with us in good faith immediately.” CVG is the main international hub in the US for DHL Express. The hub facilitates 130 daily DHL flights and is home to a fleet of 60 DHL aircraft.

Employers offering record average wages

New data from the New York Federal Reserve reveals employers are offering an average of $79,160 pa – up from $69,475 in a little under five months – to land new employees. This average wage is now the highest its been since the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Expectations Labor Market Survey was launched in 2014. Commenting on the data, Fed chair Jerome Powell said: “Labor demand still exceeds the supply of available workers.” However, in a slightly more positive note, workers themselves reduced their so-called ‘reservation wage’ – the minimum pay level they will take for a new job. This dropped to $73,391 as of last month, from $78,645 in July. According to the research, this suggests that churn in the job market may be set to increase. It found the expected likelihood of moving to a new job rose to 12.3% in November, from 10.6% in July. Interestingly, the same data showed 3.5% of Americans said they would likely move out of the labor force altogether – the highest ever reading for this survey. The Fed said it hopes the retreat in inflation will help alleviate employers’ wage cost pressures.

Federal employees asked to prioritize electric vehicle travel

All government staff are to be asked to prioritize choosing electric vehicles for their business travel, according to reports this week. The plea comes straight from President Biden, a known electric advocate, and is part of the government’s aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 from Federal operations. In a statement from the Whitehouse, it said government officials must be “leading by example on climate with the release of new Federal employee travel guidelines that direct the use of sustainable transportation for official and local travel, both domestically and internationally.” The news comes as the US recently set an electric car sales record – hitting one million for the first time in a single year. Electric vehicle sales have tripled during Biden’s leadership, according to the Whitehouse statement. This is in addition to a 70% increase in the number of electric vehicle public charging ports since Biden took office. Firms set to benefit from this latest directive include car rental company, Hertz, which forecasts an eightfold increase in electric vehicle rentals in 2024 compared to 2022. Also likely to benefit are the likes of Lyft – which allows its customers serving the country’s 20 largest airports to specifically choose a green vehicle – and Tesla. The goal from Biden is to have electric vehicles represent at least 50% of all new vehicle sales by 2030.

BMO employees donated $31 million during 2023

It’s just the sort of story to fill you will Christmas warmth. BMO Group – America’s 8th largest bank by assets – has announced that it’s staff donated $31 million to thousands of community organizations during 2023. The amount came from 88% of its staff, and exceeded the bank’s already ambitious target by $3 million. “BMO’s commitment to giving is guided by our purpose, to boldly grow the good in business and life, for our clients, colleagues and the communities we serve,” said Darryl White, CEO, BMO Financial Group. BMO has a 206-year legacy of community building across North America, and over the past five years, BMO employees have donated more than $130 million to charities across North America. Initiatives recently supported include the Neighborhood Network (with United Way) of Metro Chicago, which has been expanded to bring economic prosperity to 17 communities in Chicago’s south suburbs. Much of its work is done through United Way, which support agencies that build and directly serve neighborhoods throughout North America.

Verizon workers step (again) up to help children track Santa Claus

As Santa Claus makes final preparations in the North Pole for his worldwide sleigh ride, Verizon’s holiday tech team is poised to track his whereabouts on December 24th. Partnering with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) for the 21st consecutive year, Verizon will provide support for a toll-free hotline that children can use to track Santa’s Christmas Eve journey. “This is a special time of year for children all across the world, and we’re proud to say that for over two decades, Verizon has supported the NORAD Tracks Santa Initiative,” said Maggie Hallbach, senior vice president, public sector at Verizon Business. Last year alone, NORAD’s hotline received more than 130,000 calls. In total, some 900 in-person staff, and more than 200 virtual volunteers will help answer children’s requests – everything from wanting to know where Santa is, to whether he will be coming to their house.

This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.