After a decade-long drought of hikes to the provincial minimum wage, the BC Liberal Government raised B.C.’s minimum wage to $10.25 per hour on Tuesday (May 1). This is the third and final increase to the minimum wage rate over the past year and effectively fulfills the commitment Premier Christy Clark made in May 2011, of increasing minimum wage in three parts to the new rate by May 1, 2012.
“British Columbians who made $8 per hour last year, could now have more than an additional $4,000 in their pockets this year,” Minister of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government Margaret MacDiarmid said in a press release. “That’s good news for individuals and families — and that’s good news for the economy.”
But the exclusion of some workers from the wage hike is problematic, according to Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald.
“We went ten years with no increase and we had fallen to one of the lowest minimum wages in Canada with some of the highest costs of living so this is obviously a positive step from that perspective,” Macdonald told The Valley Echo. “We [the NDP] had campaigned on a promise of raising it to ten dollars an hour and, of course, this is now more than that; we had also talked about the need to move it up incrementally with inflation so that you don’t get jumps for employers,” he said.
“The fact that some workers are left out I think is troubling and clearly unfair.”
When the first general increase was introduced last May, minimum wage was increased to $8.75 per hour for most workers, and the training wage was repealed. At that time, a separate minimum wage of $8.50 per hour came into effect for employees who serve liquor.
When the second increase was introduced in November 2011, the minimum wage rate jumped to $9.50 while the minimum wage rate for liquor servers increased to $8.75.
Under the new employment standards, the minimum wage for liquor servers is now $9 per hour while piece rates for hand harvesting remain at a percentage of the first general increase implemented last May.
“It is absolutely unfair and arbitrary of this government to increase the minimum wage [to $10.25 per hour] for some workers and not others,” president of the B.C. Federation of Labour (BCFED) Jim Sinclair stated in a press release .
And the new wage still doesn’t ensure that people who are working 40 hours per week are earning enough to stay above the poverty line, he said, as the Low Income Cut-off methodology used by Statistics Canada puts that wage at about $11.25 per hour.
“I think that it is true that it doesn’t really represent a living wage,” Macdonald said. “Nevertheless, it is consistent with what we [the NDP] have been talking about so from that perspective it’s obviously a good move.”
But local business owner Paul Christy isn’t sure if the move is going to help or hurt small businesses.
The owner of Monkey’s Uncle Toy and Gift Company on 7th Avenue is also the past chair of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Having more money in your pocket is always a good thing, he said.
“But, for small businesses, quite often the only way you can deal with increased cost is to increase some of your prices,” he said. “So as people have more spending money, they’re also paying more for some items.
“I don’t know how that’s going to balance out.”
Christy thinks the increase will also be an issue for those businesses that were offering what was once considered a premium wage, which is now on par with the minimum wage standard.
“We certainly have always paid higher than minimum wage here so I’m not going to react immediately because I can’t, but it’s certainly something I need to start planning for,” he said.
“Keeping that distance — between what I’m paying and what minimum wage is — is certainly going to be a challenge.”