Coinciding with Labour Day, Alberta’s minimum wage has risen to $10.20 an hour.
It’s a $0.25 increase that amounts to $37 dollars a week.
But despite the $0.25 cent boost, the Calgary Labour Council says the new higher wage isn’t much to cheer about. An anti-poverty group claims Calgarians need to earn $17.29 cents an hour in order to make a living wage. That’s based on a national formula that calculates the cost of living in one of Canada’s most expensive cities.
“It would be great if the Alberta government embraced a living wage policy where people could actually make ends meet, because ultimately they will be accessing social services if they are making minimum wage.” Says Alex Shevalier, President of the Calgary Labour Council.
“Do we want to pay on the front end or the back end, because either way we’re going to pay.”
Only 25 thousand Albertans actually earn the minimum wage. That’s only 2 per cent of the work force and the lowest number in Canada. But advocates say many of those workers are women, who are already struggling to make ends meet.
“Women are running into a lot more challenges because of wage inequality. [There are] huge costs for child care for many families and so they’re the ones that are holding the burden of it and we need to support these women and families. ” explains Julie Hrdlicka of Public Interest Alberta.
“Calgary is a great city to live in, but it certainly isn’t when you’re poor”
Small businesses in this province say it’s a challenge to find workers and claim the increased minimum wage affects their bottom line.
“If you take the small increase, but times it by the number of hours, times it by the number of employees in a business, then those costs can really add up.” Says Richard Truscott from the Canadian Federation of Small Businesses.
“Any time governments increase the floor in wages, or increase other payroll costs that can really have an impact on small business, there’s no question about it.”
Alberta’s previous minimum wage had been $9.95 an hour, which was the lowest in the country. The minimum wage for liquor servers has also increased, from $9.05 to $9.20 an hour.
Nunavut and Ontario have the highest minimum wage, at $11 an hour.