One in four US companies plan salary freeze

February 10th, 2009 - 9:34 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 10 (IANS) About a quarter of businesses in America have frozen workers’ salaries for 2009 in the wake of a pessimistic economic outlook, according to a new survey.

Outsourcing and consulting firm Mercer in a survey released Monday said 25 percent of organizations surveyed said they have already decided not to raise their employees’ pay, and another 20 percent are considering a salary freeze this year.

A year ago, just 5 percent of companies planned to suspend raises for their staff. Mercer predicted that one in three companies will have frozen wages at 2008 levels by the end of 2009.

“It’s not an easy message to communicate to employees, but we think managers will be aided by the unprecedented context of these difficult decisions - including low inflation and high unemployment,” said Steve Gross of Mercer.

Those companies that plan on offering raises to their employees will give smaller-than-expected pay increases, Mercer said. The average expected salary bump at those businesses was just 3.2 percent, down from a planned 3.6 percent according to an October study.

The news comes as many employers are opting to slash jobs rather than reduce or freeze pay. Announced layoffs so far this year have already topped 300,000, and the Labour Department reported Friday that employers slashed 598,000 jobs in January - the single highest monthly job-loss total since December 1974.

Mercer also reported that executives are far less likely to get a salary increase than other employees in 2009. According to the survey, just 61 percent of companies are planning to raise their executives’ pay, and 77 percent of respondents plan to decrease the level of executive compensation from their October projections.

Only 69 percent of employers plan to raise salaries for employees in managerial positions.

“Given lacklustre corporate performance and recent pressure from regulators, shareholders and the president (Barack Obama), it’s not surprising to see that over the past few months, more than one-third of participants who reported executive salary data went from a 2009 planned base-salary increase for their executives to a freeze,” said Gross.

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