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Lidl raising starting wage to $16.50 an hour, discount grocer says

Lidl workers at the West Babylon store on

Lidl workers at the West Babylon store on Sunrise Highway in 2019. The grocer employs about 800 people on Long Island. Credit: Heather Walsh

Discount grocer Lidl will raise its starting hourly wage for part- and full-time workers on Long Island to $16.50, one of the highest among grocers in the area.

The wage change, which will be an increase from $15 an hour, will take effect March 8, affecting 300 Lidl employees on Long Island, the grocer said in a statement.

"This is fundamentally about our conviction that, for employees to be at their best, we need to support them. Part of what we do constantly across our markets is to evaluate and make sure we are keeping pace to put forward a total compensation and benefits package that supports our team," Lidl spokesman Will Harwood said.

Lidl began offering health insurance in January 2020 to all its part-time workers, regardless of how many hours they work.

The grocer employs 800 workers on Long Island, Harwood said.

The starting wage for retail workers typically is the minimum wage in New York State, said Shital Patel, a principal economist at the New York State Department of Labor.

The overall minimum wage on Long Island rose from $13 to $14 an hour Dec. 31, and it will rise to $15 at the end of this year.

The U.S. arm of Germany-based Lidl bought 27 New Jersey and New York supermarkets, including all 24 on Long Island, owned by Bethpage-based Best Market in January 2019.

Lidl operates about 11,200 stores in 32 countries, including more than 130 supermarkets in nine U.S. states.

Lidl is a limited-assortment grocer, like Trader Joe's and Aldi, which means their stores are smaller and carry fewer products than traditional supermarkets.

Aldi's starting wage on Long Island is $16.20 an hour, the grocer said.

"We are committed to ensuring our employees are generously compensated for their hard work," said Chris Daniels, vice president in the Aldi South Windsor Division.

Trader Joe's, headquartered in Monrovia, California, did not respond to a request for comment.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic that led to government-mandated shutdowns of nonessential businesses starting last March, grocers and other retailers that were allowed to stay open increased wages, often through hazard pay, and benefits to attract and retain employees.

"Although this hazard pay expired months ago for many employers, some larger chains have made these increases permanent. For example, Target permanently raised its starting wage to $15 [per] hour and has offered periodic bonuses to its employees," Patel said.

The strong demand for grocery workers has not subsided on Long Island, particularly as the pandemic has spurred more customers to use contactless services, such as curbside pickup and online shopping, that require stores to have more workers, said Rob Newell, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 in Westbury.

On Long Island, there were 30,600 grocery store workers in December 2019, compared to 32,000 in December 2020, the highest number since at least 1990, which is the oldest data available, said Lisa Boily, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employees of Stop & Shop, King Kullen, Food Bazaar Supermarket and some ShopRites are among the grocery store workers on Long Island who are members of the Local 1500, Newell said.

The starting wage for full-time unionized workers without experience is $17.25 and the starting wage for part-time inexperienced unionized workers is $14.25, he said.

Lidl, which is not unionized, raising its pay bodes well for workers who have gone through transition under different company owners, Newell said.

"I think it’s great any time workers get an increase of decent magnitude," he said.

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