MLA Macdonald, Chamber discuss minimum wage

  • Mar. 28, 2011 1:00 p.m.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald is pleased with Christy Clark’s decision to increase the minimum wage in British Columbia.

“I want to give the premier full credit for doing this in her first week, something her predecessor didn’t do in 10 years,” said Macdonald shortly after the announcement was made on March 16th.

The minimum wage will be increased to $10.25 by May 1, 2012. It will increase to $8.75 May 1, 2011, $9.50 on November 1, 2011 and then make the final jump to $10.25 next May. Clark also removed the province’s $6 training wage and set a separate wage (from $8 to $9 by May, 2012) for liquor servers.

“Raising the minimum wage and eliminating the training wage is a fair and reasonable step forward in putting families first and building our economy,” Clark said the day of the announcement. “This increase could mean more than $4,000 [extra] annually for a full-time employee, providing more support to B.C. workers and the families who depend on them.”

Macdonald noted that there are thousands of people in the province that do receive minimum wage.

“We still have a long way to go before these people are making a living wage.”

He would rather see an immediate jump to $10 an hour and doesn’t agree with the separate wage for liquor servers, but finished by saying that overall the province made a “very positive move.”

The BC Federation of Labour (BCFL) is on board with Macdonald’s attitude towards a quicker increase to the $10 minimum wage range.

Following the announcement, BCFL president Jim Sinclair said the $8.75 rate was a poor start, and he voiced disappointment the B.C. Liberals were introducing a tip wage for liquor servers.

“BC will still have the lowest minimum wage in Canada, but we’re hopeful that the Premier will keep her promise to reach $10.25 by next May,” said Sinclair.

The British Columbia Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, thinks the increase is “too much, too fast.”

“The announced raise for the minimum wage is an increase of 20 per cent in just over a year,” said John Winter, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. “That is a significant increase in operating costs for businesses to take on in such a short time, and some regions will be more negatively impacted than others.”

The organization believes that the biggest concern from businesses across BC is the potential ratcheting effect this increase will cause.  Employees and employers use the minimum wage as a baseline, and an increase to the baseline will change the expectations of those earning a wage based on it.

Ruth Kowalski, Manager of the Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce (KHCCC) in Golden, said that the KHCCC recognizes the increase in the minimum wage is long overdue and needed to be adjusted to the current cost of living.

“We do have some concerns regarding the speed of the increase of the plan to the maximum amount of $10.25 in just over little more then a year,” said Kowalski. “For some small businesses this significant increase of 20 per cent in their wage expenses will be difficult in an economy that is still struggling.