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‘Our hand is sort of being forced’: Alberta businesses face changes due to Saturday’s minimum wage hike

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WATCH ABOVE: Alberta’s minimum wage goes up starting Saturday, and as Global’s David Boushy reports, some businesses believe it’s a wrong move at the wrong time – Sep 30, 2016

It’s been a bumpy road for Bumpy’s Café. Like a lot of Alberta businesses, it has felt the effects of the economic downturn and now will have to contend with extra labour costs associated with Alberta’s minimum wage increase.

“Being in the food industry, we already count pennies – we don’t count dollars,” café owner John Evans said. “We really watch every penny we spend.”

Effective Saturday, Oct. 1, Alberta’s minimum wage will be raised by $1 an hour to $12.20 per hour.

It will be one of the highest minimum wages in the country as the NDP gets closer to its goal of raising the wage to $15 an hour by 2018.

READ MORE: A look at minimum wages across Canada

The move will force some changes at Bumpy’s.

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“We’ve frozen hiring – we’re trying not to do any hiring right now at all,” Evans said. “We’re looking at ways – if we have to cut back hours, whether we do some labour-saving techniques, bring in a product that’s already made rather than doing it from scratch like we’ve always liked to do. We don’t want to have to do that, but our hand is sort of being forced at this point.”

Evans said he’ll have no choice but to raise his prices, but he doesn’t think he’ll have to let any of his staff go.

In that regard, Evans is better off than many other Alberta businesses according to a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.

“When we add additional wage pressures into this kind of economy, small business owners are feeling the pinch,” Amber Ruddy with CFIB said.

“One in four Alberta businesses say they will have to lay off staff because of this policy.”

READ MORE: Reality check: Is a $15 minimum wage bad for the economy?

But some businesses, like Fiasco Gelato, support the move towards a so-called living wage – but not blanket increases that could discourage businesses from hiring young people entering the work force.

The province remains committed, at least for now, to the approach it’s taking – convinced it’s the right thing to do for several hundred-thousand low wage earners.

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“All hardworking Albertans deserve to make a wage that allows them to support themselves and their families,” Labour Minister Chistina Gray said.

Effective Saturday, the province will also eliminate the lower minimum wage for liquor servers.

-With files from David Boushy

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