Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center said Friday it is raising its minimum wage to $12.50 per hour.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center said Friday it has joined the living-wage movement by raising its minimum hourly wage by $1.50 to $12.50 an hour.

The not-for-profit system said 9 percent of its workforce, or about 1,460 employees, benefit from the increase that has gone into effect.

From an annual perspective, the salaries for affected employees go from $22,800 to $26,000. The overall additional payroll cost is projected at $1.7 million for fiscal 2019, which ends June 30.

Wake Forest Baptist said the increase is part of “an overall goal to progressively increase the living wage to at least $15 an hour over the next several years.”

Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag, the system’s chief executive and dean of the Wake Forest School of Medicine, said in a statement “we continuously look for ways to attract and retain highly qualified employees who are committed to our mission of improving the health of those in our communities.”

Wake Forest Baptist had 16,871 employees as of Sept. 5, the date in which it completed its acquisition of High Point Regional Health System with its workforce of 2,600 and 351 licensed beds.

The system said Oct. 12 that it plans to eliminate 50 jobs systemwide.

The Wake Forest Baptist announcement came nearly three months after Novant Health Inc. announced Aug. 21 it had approved a similar $1.50 raise to a $12.50 minimum wage.

Novant said about 5,000 employees in North Carolina, including about 2,300 in the Triad, benefited from the increase.

Overall, the new minimum wage affects about 18 percent of Novant’s four-state workforce of 28,092, as well as 28 percent of its Forsyth County workforce of 8,145.

Before a February 2017 pay raise, some Novant employees were paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which comes to $15,080 a year.

Janet Smith-Hill, Novant’s chief human-resources officer, said the increase represents a $4 million annual expense for the system.

The living-wage scale — as calculated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — says a living wage for one adult with no children in North Carolina is $11.36 per hour.

In the Winston-Salem metropolitan area, the living wage is $10.96, according to the MIT researchers.

However, according to MIT, the living wage for a family of two adults (one working) and two children is $23.75 an hour in for the Winston-Salem metropolitan statistical area and $24.57 for North Carolina as a whole.

“We are seeing more employers adopt some type of higher floor on wages,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist for Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte. “Obviously, this benefits the workers receiving those wages, but it also raises the bar for new hires.

“One of the constant challenges for business owners is attracting and keeping talented workers.”

Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University in Raleigh, said both health-care systems have “apparently assessed that the added costs of its new wage structure will be offset by higher worker quality and less worker turnover.”

The federal corporate tax-rate cut that went into effect Jan. 1 led some Triad employers to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour. The minimum wage for state employees was increased to $15 an hour on July 1.

BB&T Corp. went from $12 to $15 at an estimated cost of $15 million. It has not disclosed how many employees benefited from the increase.

Wells Fargo & Co.’s decision to raise its minimum wage from $13.50 to $15 an hour affected 86,000 employees.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. pledged to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by the end of the year. Also increasing their minimum wage were First Horizon National Corp. and Truliant Federal Credit Union.

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rcraver@wsjournal.com 336-727-7376 @rcraverWSJ

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