DIAMONDHEAD, Miss. -- It’s literally a sign of the times: A huge banner outside the Burger King in Diamondhead, a community northeast of Bay St. Louis, advertising yearly bonuses of up to $6,000 for workers.
So difficult is it to find workers after Katrina (see our earlier report), that the operator of this franchise and others in Mississippi and the greater New Orleans area have resorted to signing bonuses to secure enough workers to operate.
Myrna Schultz, marketing vice president for franchise owner Strategic Restaurants Acquisition Corp., says the “recruiting and retention bonus” enabled the company to quickly reopen all but 12 of the 100 franchises it owns in the area.
Most of the 800 people hired since Katrina have qualified for the bonus, which is up to $6,000 for full-time workers and up to $3,000 for part-time workers who put in at least 20 hours a week. Workers, even pre-Katrina ones, get a piece of the bonus with each bi-weekly paycheck, Schultz says.
Schultz adds that the bonus was offered instead of boosting hourly pay, which is the state’s minimum wage of $5.50, because its goal is to retain workers longer.
There’s no stated deadline for the bonus to end, and Schultz notes that another 400 workers are needed to return the company's restaurants to pre-Katrina levels.
Tee McCovey, a district supervisor for the Mississippi Employment Department, says that other employers along the coast have been forced to adopt similar tactics in what she said is an “employee’s market.”
“It’s just like professional sports; you even have signing bonuses," she says.
Shultz allowed that her company might even have to up the ante if competition gets fiercer as other restaurants reopen.
“It’s supply and demand,” she says. “We might out of necessity.”
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