Tyson Foods Inc. announced an increase in wages for hourly production and maintenance workers at the company’s chicken processing complex in Wilkesboro, effective Sunday, Sept. 12.

New starting pay with the increase is $15.50 per hour, up from $15 an hour.

The company also announced that people working on second and third shifts will receive a $2 “shift premium,” which means an additional $2 per hour.

The increased wages were announced Thursday.

The company said that as of Sept. 12, maintenance technician wages at the processing complex in Wilkesboro will range from $20.08 to $28.68 per hour and refrigeration technician wages range from $22.09 to $31.55 per hour. Actual pay within the ranges depends on experience.

The press release announcing the pay increases also stated that Tyson is offering a $1,500 new hire bonus for people working on first shift and a $3,000 new hire bonus for second shift workers.

Tyson employees are also eligible for medical, dental, vision and prescription benefits, 401(k) and participation in Tyson’s employee stock purchase plan, the release stated.

“Ensuring that our team members are competitively compensated is important to Tyson,” said Kevin Taylor, complex manager at the Wilkesboro facility. “They work hard every day to provide food to families across the globe, and we are proud to invest in them, their families and the community.”

Taylor said the company strives to ensure its employees have the tools and resources they need to be successful, such as regular training, a safe workplace, competitive compensation, and benefits and life skills training.

The launch of Tyson’s “Healthy Heroes” Rewards Sweepstakes at the processing complex in Wilkesboro also was announced Thursday. To be eligible to participate, employees must have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and have voluntarily provided verification documentation in advance of each weekly drawing.

Winners announced at poultry plant weekly drawings will each receive $10,000 from Tyson Foods. Employees must be vaccinated to be eligible to win. The release said the drawings are part of a Tyson program focused on increasing COVID-19 awareness and vaccination among the company’s employees and their families.

Taylor said, “Tyson Foods is committed to the health and safety of our team members and the communities where we operate, and we hope this initiative will help increase vaccination rates in our region.”

He added, “Through this vaccination sweepstakes, we not only want to reward our vaccinated employees for their commitment to the safety and health of others, but also encourage local spending to support the vitality of our neighboring businesses in the Wilkesboro area.”

The release said that by the time the drawings end on Sept. 24, five cash prizes of $10,000 each will have been distributed to sweepstakes winners. The drawings at Tyson poultry processing plants began Aug. 27.

On Aug. 3, Tyson announced that nearly all of its employees must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Nov. 1. Tyson employees who are members of a union are subject to results of union bargaining on this issue, the company stated. Exceptions for medical or religious reasons will be considered.

Employees who are officers or in higher positions must be vaccinated by Sept. 24; other people working in offices by Oct. 1; all other employees by Nov. 1; and all new hires prior to starting work, Tyson announced.

The company said on Aug. 3 that upon verification in the Tyson Vaccination Verification Program, employees will receive $200 for being fully vaccinated. This was an expansion of the company’s existing policy of compensating workers for up to four hours of regular pay for being vaccinated outside of their normal shift or through an external source. For employees in unions, this is subject to ongoing discussions with unions.

The press release announcing the vaccination mandate said almost half of Tyson’s U.S. workforce was vaccinated by then and that COVID-19 infection rates among employees remained low.

Several COVID-19 protection measures are in place at the complex in Wilkesboro, including health screenings, face coverings and shields, temperature checks, workstation dividers and ongoing COVID-19 testing. The company has been providing on-site coronavirus vaccinations.

Tyson has a workforce of about 2,300 people in Wilkes County, mostly at the company’s chicken processing complex in Wilkesboro. It is the largest employer in Wilkes.

— Staff report

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