Salary = annual wage.
They were correct. If the folks don't like it.....they can go somewhere else for a better (hopefully) wage.
But, to think you can put blue-collar workers on a salary....to keep your expenditures down.....is a recipe for the dept. of labor fining you AND forcing you to pay back-wages.
Like I said, if you think it sounds good...someone's probably thought of it, before. That doesn't mean it's legal.