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August 3, 2021

JAX will spend $5M to raise minimum wage for over 1,000 employees

people posing outside Courtesy / Jackson Laboratory Hourly employees at Jackson Laboratory received a minimum wage increase from $15 to $18 per hour.

The need to attract and retain employees has driven Bar Harbor-based Jackson Laboratory, one of the world's most prominent biomedical research institutions, to hike its wages at an annual cost of $5 million.

The nonprofit lab on Monday said it will immediately adjust the minimum hourly pay for employees from $15 to $18. More than 1,200 employees — about half of the workforce — will receive the raise.

Among them are workers in areas including animal care and operations, research, administration and technical roles, according to a news release. In addition, most hourly employees who receive more than the minimum wage will get an increase to their compensation later this month. 

The increase represents an annual investment in employee compensation of more than $5 million, JAX said in the release. The lab currently has 220 open positions across its campuses in Bar Harbor, Ellsworth, California and Connecticut, including nearly 70 in Maine focused on animal care, customer service and information technology.

The pay hike comes less than two weeks after MaineHealth, the state's largest health care system, announced it was raising the minimum wage across its 23,000-member workforce from $14 an hour to $17.

Like MaineHealth, JAX is responding to a labor market that's been increasingly challenging for employers during the pandemic.

“We understand that our greatest resource is our people,” JAX Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Catherine Longley said in the release. “And we work every day to make sure that they are taken care of here at JAX. This includes staying ahead of the market with respect to compensation, generous health, retirement and benefit packages, and working hard to address issues that employees face daily such as affordable housing, child care and parental leave.”

Since the pandemic began, JAX has avoided employee layoffs or furloughs. Over the past year, the lab has continued to grow, remained on solid financial footing, granted pay increases and introduced new benefits, according to the release.

“This latest hourly wage increase puts into action and recognizes the contributions of our frontline employees and how they directly contribute to the productivity and success of JAX,” said Longley.

The lab is also looking to mitigate an affordable housing crunch for its Bar Harbor employees, with construction of a 24-apartment complex there.

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