PensionBee survey shows overwhelming support for living wage as Walmart shareholders’ reject proposal

Ffion White

by , PR Manager

10 June 2024 /  

10
June 2024

Group sat in a room raising their hands

Despite strong support from pension savers, a crucial shareholder resolution to establish a compensation policy ensuring Walmart employees earn a living wage was not passed at the company’s recent Annual General Meeting (AGM) having received under 5% support.

According to a recent survey by PensionBee, a leading online pension provider, 70%1 of respondents – equivalent to approximately 22.3 million pension savers2 – expressed their support for the resolution. Among PensionBee customers, this support rose to 83%.3

However, during Walmart’s AGM on June 5, 2024, the shareholder resolution received only 4.4% of the vote, falling way short of the required majority and disappointing many interested pension savers.

Data from previous customer surveys of PensionBee savers in the Tailored Plan support this type of shareholder resolution and demonstrate that the call for fair pay is not new. These surveys revealed that customers prioritise investing their pensions in companies that pay wages reflecting the true cost of living, including the living wage and the London living wage.4

In 2021, 83% of respondents clearly indicated that they expect the companies in their pensions to pay the living wage. Additionally, almost a third of respondents (33%) wanted companies that do not pay the living wage to be excluded from their pensions from the outset.

In 2022, the survey showed that customers rated fair pay and the fair treatment of workers as the second most important priority for them as investors. They “expect” the large companies in which they are invested to pay wages that represent the true cost-of-living.

Walmart had previously increased the minimum hourly wage for store associates to $14/hour in 2023. While this was viewed as a positive step,it remains insufficient given that the US living wage in 2022 was calculated to be $25.02 per hour for a worker supporting a family of four with two working adults.

The resolution also highlighted the disparity between the compensation of Walmart’s CEO, who earns 933 times more than the median employee. It called on the Board to set a compensation policy ensuring all employees are paid a living wage.

Walmart, a global retail giant, operates over 10,500 stores and numerous eCommerce websites across 19 countries. It employs approximately 2.1 million people worldwide, with nearly 1.6 million of those in the United States.

Since 2020, PensionBee has been a member of ShareAction’s Good Work Coalition, joining other accredited living wage investors to collectively engage companies on good work standards, such as paying the living wage, providing secure work through living hours and more recently taking action on diversity and inclusion through the Ethnicity Pay Gap Campaign.

In 2023, PensionBee has continued to add its name to calls for publicly listed companies to prioritise support for their lowest-paid employees and meet the new real living wage rates during the cost-of-living crisis.

Clare Reilly, Chief Engagement Officer at PensionBee, commented: “Savers will be disappointed to see Walmart shareholders reject a resolution on this crucial topic as it has their widespread support.

“Pension savers have overwhelmingly - and repeatedly - told us that paying a living wage is not only a matter of fairness but also crucial business practice that they expect to see in the companies they have their pensions invested in. By investing in their employees’ well-being, companies like Walmart can enhance productivity, reduce turnover, and ultimately create a more resilient and loyal workforce.”

Footnotes

  1. The survey results are based on the responses of 1,000 UK residents – aged 18-66 – who either are currently contributing to a pension or have a pension that they are not currently contributing to (not including the State Pension). The survey was run in April 2024.

  2. Based on ONS data stating around 31.9 million private pension savers.

  3. The survey results are based on the responses of 378 PensionBee customers. The survey was run in April 2024.

  4. _Links to the customer surveys can be found under section three of the PensionBee ESG Policy webpage._

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