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6:33 AM Thu, Jan. 17th

Wal-Mart's wage increase: phase two

The $1 billion campaign launched by Wal-Mart earlier this year to raise its employee's wages, improve training and offer its employees more control over their schedules went into phase two at the start of this month.

In February, the retail giant announced it was increasing minimum wages for entry-level and long-term hourly employees to at least $10 by next February. That increase involved 500,000 of its 1.3 million U.S. workers.

The second phase targets more than 100,000 U.S. department managers and workers in its deli and other specialized departments who are now beginning to see a hike in their starting wages.

Department managers of complex and service-oriented jobs in areas like produce, electronics and auto care will now start at $13 per hour and top out at $24.70 per hour. Starting next February, they will be paid at least $15 per hour. Previously, the pay range was from $10.30 to $20.09. Meanwhile, those managers of less-complicated departments like clothing, and consumer products like paper towels and luggage, will now earn from $10.90 to $20.71 per hour. Previously, they earned from $9.90 to $19.31.

The hikes come as Wal-Mart is phasing out the position of zone managers, and reassigning those jobs at its stores to assistant managers or department managers in a bid to offer front-line workers more control over how their areas should be run. At the same time, it's adding up to 8,000 more department manager jobs, who will oversee one specific area.

Workers in specialized areas like the deli sections or the wireless areas will also now earn a wage range of $9.90 to $18.81 per hour. Previously, they started at around $9.20 and topped out at $18.53.

Regional spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Delia Garcia says Wal-Mart is offering a complete package through these changes that will benefit its employees whether they choose to stay with Wal-Mart in the long run or not.

"We're helping workers gain skills to help advance their career by providing training on both the basic skills associates need to do their jobs and also soft skills that are applicable to job success," Garcia said. "If they decide Wal-Mart is not where they want to build a career and they want to take those skills to another employer, those are portable skills that they've acquired that are going to be a benefit to them and another employer potentially."

Overall, Wal-Mart has about 300,000 associates that have been with the company 10 years or more.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein. Reach him at 928-642-7864.