Congratulations Asda Associates, But What About U.S. Associates?

The British papers are full of stories about the windfall Asda associates got this month from their Sharesave program (here, here and here).

Windfall? Sharesave? Sharesave’s a program that allows Asda associates to buy shares of Walmart stock at a discount and then sell it at market prices. Now, it does require workers to save money over a three-year period, but what that gets them is the opportunity to use the savings to buy stock at a 20 percent discount. That’s a 20 percent discount to the price from three years ago, and then they can turn around and sell those shares for a profit. The average payout this year was nearly $5,000 – and represented 170 percent of the amount saved.

Now no one begrudges the good fortune of Asda workers to share in the success of Walmart. However, it does raise questions about why associates in the U.S. aren’t extended the same opportunity. In fact, U.S. associates had profit sharing cut back in 2011. Now they are eligible for store level bonus but this means that, rather than receiving a guaranteed annual bonus, it’s a crapshoot depending upon individual store performance. As one industry analyst said, “Taking away profit-sharing was the ultimate Ebenezer Scrooge story of the last holiday season. Ebenezer makes all the money, and all the poor Cratchits working in the Wal-Mart stores become poorer and poorer.”

Maybe company leaders need to be reminded of some sage words from Mr. Sam Walton: “Profit-sharing has pretty much been the carrot that’s kept Wal-Mart headed forward.”

What do you think?