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CoxHealth is raising its minimum wage to $15.25 an hour in October.
SBJ File
CoxHealth is raising its minimum wage to $15.25 an hour in October.

Cox boosts minimum wage with $25.5M annual investment

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CoxHealth yesterday announced its minimum wage is increasing to $15.25 per hour – a jump of $3.25 an hour.

The health system is the largest area employer with over 12,500 on payroll, and the increase amounts to a $25.5 million annual investment, said President and CEO Steve Edwards. He noted that sum represents half of Cox’s annual profits.

“This is the tightest labor market I have seen,” Edwards said this morning. “We have hundreds and hundreds of openings right now. With 12,500 employees, that’s manageable short term, but we’re also growing rapidly. To meet these needs, we have to make sure we’re competitive in the market.

“We’re always looking at entry-level wages and turnover and retention. This is a big jump, but it looks like where the market is headed.”

The increase impacts roughly 5,000 entry-level employees who will see the increase on their paychecks beginning in October. The financial plan also provides raises for an additional 1,500 workers who earn near the new minimum wage.

“We’re trying to be sensitive up the career ladder,” Edwards said. “You don’t want to bump someone brand new ahead of someone with more experience.”

St. Louis-based Mercy announced last week it was increasing its minimum wage to $15 an hour. The increase represented an $18 million investment, and health system officials said it would boost pay for 6,000 of its co-workers systemwide, according to a news release.

When asked if Cox’s pay boost was spurred by Mercy’s announcement, Edwards said:, “We intend to be the most competitive health system in the market, and so we adjusted our entry- level wages to be consistent in that.”

The wage bump comes a day after CoxHealth announced it would require employees, students and vendors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Mercy Springfield Communities announced the same requirement in July.

Roughly 30% of Cox’s workforce is not vaccinated, according to health system officials. Edwards said the minimum wage boost is also aimed at retaining employees who object to the mandate.

“I do understand we have a higher hesitancy among our entry-level workers than, for example, our physicians. We do hope this will support those and hopefully help them to stay,” he said. “Right now, to work in health care, it’s difficult. It’s long hours, and you’ve got to have a sense of purpose and mission. It feels uncomfortable putting people in a position to fight as hard as they are and not be able to pay them what we could.”

CoxHealth’s previous minimum wage was set in February at $12 an hour. That represented a $4 million annual investment for the health system, according to past reporting.

The state’s minimum wage is currently $10.30 per hour and will increase incrementally to reach $12 an hour by 2023.

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