Minimum wage in British Columbia will increase by $1.20 to $13.85 for most low-wage workers in the province on Saturday.
The 9.5 per cent jump follows a $1.30 increase in the minimum wage on June 1, 2018.
The minimum wage for liquor servers is also climbing by $1.30 to $12.70 per hour, while the monthly minimum for resident caretakers will climb to $831.45, and the daily minimum for live-in camp leaders will climb to $110.87.
“Regular increases to minimum wages are one way government is helping to make life more affordable for people, while providing the predictability and certainty that businesses need,” said the Ministry of Labour in a media release.
The province is hiking the minimum wage each June until it reaches $15.20 per hour in 2021. The separate liquor server minimum will also be eliminated.
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B.C.’s NDP government campaigned on a promise to increase the province’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. Prior to their election, the former BC Liberal government had pegged minimum wage increases to inflation.
In 2016, B.C. had the lowest minimum wage in the country.
“These increases are the result of recommendations from the independent Fair Wages Commission, established in 2017 to advise government on an approach to raising provincial minimum wages with increases that are regular, measured and predictable,” said the ministry.
But some businesses are already raising the alarm about the impact of the wage hike.
Ian Tostenson, president of the BC Restaurant & Food Services Association, says his members are already facing pressures from the Employer Health Tax and property tax increases.
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“I just talked to a restaurant group that has five restaurants throughout the Lower Mainland and they’re medium size,” he said.
“It’s going to cost them about between $120,000 and $140,000 more in salary costs, and their point was that’s also on top of the $50,000 that it’s costing for the employer tax. We’ve got $200,000 in extra costs and in a market that’s somewhat flat.”
With growing costs, Tostenson said, businesses are caught between hiking prices and scaring off customers or looking for ways to save costs — either by shaving from menus or cutting front-of-house labour.
“My colleague in the industry calls it death by a thousand cuts,” he said.
“It’s not just, ‘Hey we’ve got an increase in wages here,’ we’ve got increased almost everything, food costs, and so I think you’ll see that unfortunately businesses that are on the margin probably can’t sustain these kind of cost increases and they’ll probably close.”
But the BC Federation of Labour says businesses are overstating their concerns.
“We’ve seen examples particularly in the US Seattle New York and California where significant increases in the minimum wage have not resulted in the sort of sky is falling,” said president Laird Cronk.
Cronk said workers with more money in their pockets are better able to spend it at local businesses, adding that the change will benefit about 500,000 British Columbians, more than half of them women.
“One in seven minimum wage workers actually has a post-secondary degree. So we’re not talking about just folks working at the front counter of McDonald’s we’re talking about people trying to make a living,” he said.