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(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) plans to improve opportunities for its employees so that in the future there will no longer be a few thousand workers on its payroll making minimum wage, the chief executive of the world's top retailer said on Wednesday.
The act of upgrading minimum wage positions would be largely a symbolic move for Wal-Mart. Currently only about 6,000 workers make the minimum out of its U.S. workforce of 1.3 million. Wal-Mart says its average full-time hourly wage is $12.92, compared with the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
But the comments from CEO Douglas McMillon could draw some attention amid the contentious national debate over proposals to raise the minimum wage. Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the U.S. and a prime target of labor activists who say it doesn't pay workers a living wage.
"We only have a few thousand associates in the U.S., less than 6,000 of our 1.3 million associates in the U.S., that currently make a minimum wage and it is our intention over time that we will be in a situation where we don't pay minimum wage at all," McMillon told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the issue following an investor conference.
McMillon said the move would be part of a larger effort to "invest in its associate base". It could also look at using promotions and bonus payments to improve opportunities for workers, he said. He didn't disclose further details.
OUR Walmart, a workers' group that's been pushing for the retailer to pay higher wages, is organizing two rallies on Thursday - one in New York and one in Washington D.C. - to put a spotlight on the issue, a spokeswoman for the group said.
Reporting by Nathan Layne in Rogers, Arkansas; Editing by Ryan Woo