B.C. to raise min­i­mum wage by 50 cents

The Miracle - - Front Page -

The new B.C. NDP gov­ern­ment will raise the min­i­mum wage by 50 cents an hour in Septem­ber, and move to a 15-an-hour rate by 2021 — a long-sought move by labour and anti-poverty groups but one met with wary con­cern in the busi­ness sec­tor. On Sept. 15, the min­i­mum wage will in­crease to 11.35 an hour, a com­mit­ment from the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral gov­ern­ment the NDP will im­ple­ment. The gov­ern­ment will also in­crease liquor servers’ wages by 50 cents to 10.10 an hour. Min­is­ter of Labour Harry Bains said on Tues­day that the hike this fall is just a “step­ping-stone”. Rais­ing the min­i­mum wage is only one way the new gov­ern­ment will make life more af­ford­able for Bri­tish Columbians, but it’s an im­por­tant start,” he said. Bains said the gov­ern­ment lis­tened to busi­ness own­ers and rec­og­nized the need for a grad­ual strat­egy for in­creas­ing wages to min­i­mize the im­pact on busi­nesses. “It’s pre­dictable. It’s in­cre­men­tal. (Busi­ness own­ers) can look at their struc­ture and costs ahead of time know­ing full well what their costs will be,” he said. The NDP did not pro­vide a time­line for the grad­ual im­ple­men­ta­tion of the 15-an-hour rate. It plans to set up a com­mis­sion that will con­sult with stake­hold­ers and de­ter­mine how to in­crease the hourly min­i­mum wage to 15. A wage hike to 15-an-hour by 2021 is too much, too soon, for small busi­nesses, said Richard Tr­us­cott, the Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Busi­ness’s B.C. and Al­berta spokesman. “To get to 15 an hour you’re look­ing at much larger in­creases the next four years to get there. We’re talk­ing a dol­lar or more depend­ing on the im­ple­men­ta­tion sched­ule,” he said. Large cor­po­ra­tions can use economies of scale or au­to­ma­tion to mit­i­gate higher labour costs, but many small busi­nesses would not have the re­sources to ab­sorb the hike and may have to re­sort to cut­ting jobs, fore­go­ing hir­ing, scal­ing back on em­ployee hours, or pass­ing along the cost to con­sumers with higher prices. “There are ad­just­ments that have to be made. It’s not go­ing to be an easy pill to swal­low,” said Tr­us­cott, call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to con­sider a longer phased-in pe­riod, per­haps six years, sim­i­lar to Seat­tle. Anita Gu­ber­man, CEO of the Sur­rey Board of Trade, said her group sup­ports a min­i­mum-wage in­crease tied to the con­sumer price in­dex, but said small busi­nesses will be im­pacted by the wage hike. “We need to be cau­tious and sen­si­tive and help small busi­ness,” said Hu­ber­man. “I un­der­stand the path (the gov­ern­ment is) go­ing down, tak­ing care of cit­i­zens, but they also have the op­por­tu­nity here to take care of busi­ness.” Hu­ber­man and Tr­us­cott said the gov­ern­ment can use other pol­icy levers to soften the blow on small busi­nesses, whether that’s in the form of tax cuts or back­ing off on other pol­icy changes such as the car­bon tax in­crease or changes to em­ploy­ment rules. When asked whether the gov­ern­ment is con­sid­er­ing any mit­i­gat­ing mea­sures, Bains said that will be un­der con­sid­er­a­tion when Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ca­role James and Pre­mier John Hor­gan put to­gether the bud­get. Machiko Purse, who works at a hot­dog stand in down­town Van­cou­ver, said a 15-an-hour min­i­mum wage is much-needed. “Van­cou­ver is a very ex­pen­sive city. Many peo­ple are liv­ing pay­cheque to pay­cheque.” She did won­der, how­ever, whether the cost of goods would also go up, and added “maybe there won’t be much change.” Orig­i­nally from Ja­pan, Purse, 42, said she can only af­ford to make ends meet be­cause her hus­band also works. “But if I’m a sin­gle mom and I have a 10-year-old daugh­ter, it is not pos­si­ble to live on a min­i­mum wage.” Con­nor McRae, an ESL teacher in Van­cou­ver, said he sees both sides of the ar­gu­ment, but his gut re­ac­tion is that a 15-an-hour min­i­mum wage is a good thing. “I’d say it comes down to prin­ci­ples and what are your ideals,” he said. “It’s tak­ing care of our peo­ple, same thing if you think peo­ple de­serve the right to health in­surance, they de­serve the right of a min­i­mum wage that’s liv­able.” Source: The Prov­ince

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