Wage hike cri­tiqued

Min­i­mum-wage hike con­cern­ing for some busi­ness own­ers, but could be ‘pos­i­tive move’

The Barrie Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - CH­ERYL BROWNE

Crys­tal-ball view­ers say the glass is half-full when fore­cast­ing min­i­mum-wage in­creases across the prov­ince.

Rais­ing the min­i­mum wage is ex­pected to add jobs to the econ­omy by 2019, yet teenagers are ex­pected to suf­fer in the new em­ploy­ment econ­omy, says the Fi­nan­cial Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice of On­tario.

A new re­port look­ing into the pros and cons of the On­tario govern­ment’s pro­posed in­crease from the cur­rent $11.40 per hour to $15 over the course of 18 months takes a crit­i­cal view of the rapid in­crease.

Yet it also notes a higher min­i­mum wage would also raise labour in­come and in­crease con­sumer spend­ing.

“Over­all, it’s a pos­i­tive move,” said Keenan Ayl­win, man­ager of Grilled Cheese So­cial Eatery on Dun­lop Street East.

“If your em­ploy­ees have more money to spend, it’s bet­ter for ev­ery­one all around.”

How­ever, Ayl­win does say he wishes the pro­vin­cial govern­ment would take a harder look at all the costs as­so­ci­ated with run­ning a small re­tail shop or res­tau­rant.

“The govern­ment could be do­ing more in terms of help­ing the smaller busi­ness own­ers,” he said.

The prov­ince’s ac­count­abil­ity of­fice es­ti­mates the higher min­i­mum wage will raise to­tal in­come by 1.3% but agrees the in­crease would “dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­pact work­ers in cer­tain in­dus­tries.”

Busi­nesses with fewer than 20 em­ploy­ees hire a larger pro­por­tion of work­ers paid less than $15 per hour, com­pared to larger em­ploy­ers.

The re­port points out that lift­ing the min­i­mum wage will in­crease pay­roll costs for On­tario busi­nesses.

That’s what North­ern Pro­to­col Com­puter Sales and Ser­vice owner Aaron We­ston is wor­ried about.

“I want to grow my busi­ness, but the costs keep go­ing up,” We­ston said. “If the cost of staffing goes up and all the de­duc­tions in­crease, my em­ploy­ees have said if it puts them in a higher tax bracket, what’s the point?”

We­ston said he cur­rently pays his “highly-skilled geeks” more than the min­i­mum wage.

How­ever, if the low­est wage is raised and his staff doesn’t get the same in­crease, they could feel cheated.

“If their wages don’t go up as well, they’re mak­ing 30% less,” We­ston said. “Any gains they made by get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion all get wiped away.”

We­ston said it will be hard to main­tain a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage if his staff is be­ing paid what cof­feeshop em­ploy­ees earn.

The pro­posed min­i­mum wage hike is ex­pected to dra­mat­i­cally in­crease the num­ber of min­i­mum wage work­ers from just over 500,000 to ap­prox­i­mately 1.6 mil­lion in 2019.

The prov­ince’s fi­nan­cial ac­count­abil­ity staff also be­lieve the higher labour in­come and house­hold spend­ing will boost eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, but ex­pect the pro­posed pay spike would re­sult in the loss of ap­prox­i­mately 50,000 jobs over­all.

Both We­ston and Ayl­win said they don’t ex­pect to hire new staff this fall, how­ever an Out­look Sur­vey re­leased by Man­power Group Em­ploy­ment said it’s fore­cast­ing a pos­i­tive hir­ing cli­mate for Barrie’s fourth quar­ter of 2017.

“Sur­vey data re­veals that 13% of em­ploy­ers plan to hire for the up­com­ing quar­ter (Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber), while 3% an­tic­i­pate cut­backs,” said Tara Ben­son at Barrie’s Man­power of­fice.

She said about 80% of em­ploy­ers ex­pect to main­tain their cur­rent staffing lev­els, while the re­main­ing 4% are play­ing a wait-and-see game this fall.

“With sea­sonal vari­a­tions re­moved from the data, Barrie’s fourth quar­ter net em­ploy­ment out­look of 11% is a one per­cent­age point de­crease when com­pared to pre­vi­ous quar­terly Out­look (re­ports),” Ben­son said.

Head­ing into the fourth quar­ter na­tion­ally, there’s an ex­pected trend of mod­est growth, she said.

MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

Keenan Ayl­win, man­ager of Grilled Cheese So­cial Eatery on Dun­lop Street East in down­town Barrie, says he thinks over­all it’s a pos­i­tive move to raise the min­i­mum wage, but wishes the pro­vin­cial govern­ment would take a harder look at all the costs as­so­ci­ated with run­ning a small busi­ness or res­tau­rant.

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