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Originally published Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 9:34 AM

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Nissan to increase pay at Tenn. and Miss. plants

Nissan Motor Co. will raise pay for its employees in Mississippi and Tennessee.

Associated Press

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JACKSON, Miss. —

Nissan Motor Co. will raise pay for its employees in Mississippi and Tennessee.

The company has told its employees it will increase their wages starting in October at its Canton, Miss., and Smyrna, Tenn., assembly plants, as well as its Decherd, Tenn., engine plant.

Nissan says pay will go up by 55 cents an hour for production employees and 65 cents an hour for maintenance technicians, spokesman Justin Saia said. That's about a 2 percent increase over the average hourly wage that workers in Smyrna and Canton make now. Production and maintenance workers make $2 an hour less, on average, in Canton than in Smyrna.

The pay raises come as the United Auto Workers try to unionize workers at the Canton and Smyrna plants. The UAW has appealed to Mississippi workers in part by noting the pay gap between Mississippi and Tennessee plants. So far, the union has not filed for an election at either plant. Nissan has said it pays less in Mississippi because wages in general are lower in the state.

It's the first raise for Nissan's American workers since 2006. The company says auto sales are improving and the economy is strengthening.

"Obviously, that means more stability and security for all of our employees and an even bigger economic impact on the state of Mississippi," Dan Bednarzyk, the head of Nissan's Mississippi operations, told members of the Mississippi Economic Council during a Thursday meeting.

Nissan and its contractors employ 5,200 workers in Canton, more than 6,000 in Smyrna and more than 1,400 in Decherd. Those totals include a number of contract employees who don't work directly for Nissan. The company has ramped up hiring in the past two years, as auto sales increase, Nissan tries to shift production from Japan to the United States, and the company tries to capture 10 percent of the U.S. market. More hires are planned in Canton as the company moves to start assembling the Murano model in late 2014.

Saia said all workers, including contract workers, will receive what Nissan calls "recognition payments" in June. Those bonus payments were stopped for a time during the recession.

Nissan says production workers in Canton now make an average of $24.47 an hour, while maintenance workers make $28.49, on average. In Smyrna, the company says production workers make $26.47 on average, while maintenance workers make $30.49 on average.

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