Pen­nies for your thoughts

Min­i­mum wage in­crease po­lar­izes lo­cal busi­ness own­ers and em­ploy­ees in Grand Falls-Wind­sor

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - Front Page - BY JOR­DAN MALONEY

GRAND FALLS-WIND­SOR, NL – The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s re­cently an­nounced min­i­mum wage in­crease has drawn strong re­ac­tions from all sides.

As of April 1, min­i­mum wage will in­crease by 15 cents to $11.15 an hour.

Lo­cal busi­ness owner Lou Al­teen says his busi­ness can han­dle the in­crease, but he’s not sure how much of an im­pact it will have on em­ploy­ees.

“Any in­crease in these try­ing re­tail times is not nice, but I do re­spect the fact that peo­ple need money to live,” said the owner of Al­teen’s Jewellers.

“(But) to some­one that’s earn­ing min­i­mum wage, is that enough to do any­thing … for them?”

The prov­ince will still have the third-low­est min­i­mum wage in the coun­try after the in­crease, which makes Al­teen won­der what con­sti­tutes a proper liv­ing wage.

“Who de­cides what a liv­ing wage is?” he said. “And min­i­mum wage, when it was started, was it meant to be a liv­ing wage? Or was it just meant to be a start­ing point?

“There’s a lot of talk about liv­ing wage, and I don’t know what a liv­ing wage is. I don’t know if I’d want to leave it (de­cid­ing a liv­ing wage) to the politi­cians or not.

“I just won­der if 15 cents is go­ing to make any dif­fer­ence to any­thing.”

The Ad­ver­tiser con­tacted the Ex­ploits Re­gional Cham­ber of Com­merce for its views on the in­crease, but the board had not yet had time to dis­cuss the is­sue with mem­bers and de­clined com­ment.

Lee Oliver, a sin­gle mother and em­ployee of M&M Food Mar­ket, thinks 15 cents could make a big dif­fer­ence to her.

“My baby sit­ter just got a raise,” Oliver said. “So, I would love to be able to make as much to at least cover that. Hon­estly, I think (min­i­mum wage) should be more.

“I strug­gle ev­ery day. By the time I’m fin­ished pay­ing all my bills, and my baby sit­ter makes pretty much half my pay­check – no, it’s not enough.”

Oliver, how­ever, is wary of the risks of rais­ing the min­i­mum wage too quickly.

“I’m also wor­ried about what’s hap­pen­ing in On­tario,” she said. “Ba­si­cally, they’re be­ing cut hours and ben­e­fits. They’ve even lost em­ploy­ees at places.”

That worry seems like it isn’t far-fetched for New­found­land and Labrador.

“Not good at all,” said Quick Stop Con­ve­nience owner Jeff Ban­nis­ter when asked about the im­pact of the wage in­crease on small busi­ness own­ers.

“I’ve been here 10 years, and first when I bought the store, min­i­mum wage was (about) $6.25. In 10 years it’s go­ing to be $11.15. That’s quite an in­crease, so what hap­pens is you end up work­ing it your­self and you’re giv­ing some­body else no job. Sim­ple as that.”

Ban­nis­ter said he has two and some­times three em­ploy­ees work­ing for him, though now be­cause of the in­crease it will be fixed at two.

He said he has al­ready had to cut em­ploy­ees due to pre­vi­ous in­creases through­out the years.

“Don’t get me wrong, any­one (who) goes to work de­serves that much,” Ban­nis­ter said when re­fer­ring to the new min­i­mum wage. “But for a small busi­ness like this, it’s not fea­si­ble.

“What they’re do­ing is mak­ing the small (busi­ness own­ers) work it, in­stead of hav­ing an ex­tra em­ployee or two.”

Ban­nis­ter noted it wasn’t pos­si­ble to raise the price of his goods, stat­ing he would just be un­der­cut by a store with cor­po­rate back­ing.

“It’s a joke – $11.15 is not a liv­able wage,” said Am­ber Drew, a sales clerk at Dicks & Com­pany Ba­sics. “I think it needs to be at least $12. The ex­tra 15 cents isn’t go­ing to get me any­where.

“The cost of liv­ing here isn’t cheap at all. I’ll never get ahead at this rate.”

The min­i­mum wage in­creases in New­found­land and Labrador, as well as all other At­lantic prov­inces, will now be tied to April 1 an­nu­ally and will ad­just along with in­fla­tion.


Ad­vanced Ed­u­ca­tion, Skills and Labour Min­is­ter Al Hawkins (right) takes ques­tions on the prov­ince’s han­dling of min­i­mum wage at the Con­fed­er­a­tion Build­ing Me­dia Cen­tre Feb. 20. Hawkins was joined by Ken Cle­ments, di­rec­tor of the labour stan­dards di­vi­sion.

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