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Restaurants say they will cut hours, staff due to hike in Alberta minimum wage

FILE: A waiter places glasses on a table in a restaurant.
FILE: A waiter places glasses on a table in a restaurant. Photo by OJO Images / Rex Features

EDMONTON – Restaurant owners and operators in Alberta say they will have to cut hours or lay people off to cope with a higher minimum wage.

Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president of the Western Canada region of Restaurants Canada, says 78 per cent of operators have said they will cut hours, while nearly half will go through a round of layoffs.

READ MORE: Alberta’s minimum wage goes up to $12.20 on Saturday 

Alberta’s minimum wage went up Saturday by one dollar to $12.20 an hour, and $1.50 for liquor servers, with the elimination of the liquor server wage.

Von Schellwitz says Alberta members recently participated in a workshop in Calgary to find ways to reduce labour costs.

They looked at balancing what they pay between higher-paid front-of-house service staff and back-of-house kitchen staff who don’t earn gratuities through new service charge or self-service options.

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He says 35 cents of every dollar by a restaurant earned goes to labour costs.

Currently, the only regions with a higher minimum wage than Alberta in Canada are Nunavut ($13 an hour) and Northwest Territories ($12.50 an hour).

READ MORE: A look at minimum wages across Canada

Alberta’s minimum wage is expected to go up to $13.60 an hour next year and reach $15 an hour by Oct. 1, 2018.

Opposition parties have slammed the Alberta NDP for moving ahead with its minimum-wage increases, saying the wage hikes are too much too fast and threaten to further hurt businesses still reeling from the slump in oil prices. But in an interview with The Canadian Press Tuesday, Premier Rachel Notley said she rejects the notion that a minimum-wage hike will hurt the provincial economy.

READ MORE: It’s official: Alberta’s minimum wage will be $15 an hour by 2018

Notley said her government is trying to strike a balance between supporting businesses and tackling inequality.

With files from CHED, Corus Entertainment Inc. and Global News.