As announced earlier this year, the British Columbia government has taken the first step in increasing the minimum wage in efforts to better reflect the provinces overall economic growth and ensure all workers benefit from B.C.s thriving job market.
The first planned increase became effective on September 15th of this year, jumping up 40 cents, bringing the general minimum wage up to $10.85 per hour, with the liquor server minimum wage also increasing to $9.60. According to the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour, this new rate includes the 10 cents scheduled for the 2015 Consumer Price Index (CPI), plus an additional 30 cents.
Susan Clovechok, executive director for the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, said that there needs to be some type of sensible balance between increasing the minimum wage and ensuring it does not affect small business and entry level jobs across the province.
Absolutely people need to make a good living and need to paid for the value of the work that theyre providing, theres no question about that and every business in our community would love to be able to afford to pay their employees hundreds of thousands of dollars a year but its just not always doable, she said, noting that there are few businesses within the valley paying minimum wage.
What we need is a balance of jobs that pay well, entry level positions, good paying jobs and thats what will make our community economically resilient.
While the raise to $10.85 does lift B.C. out of the bottom of the list in terms of minimum wage across the country, its still below the national average of $11.25 per hour. For the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED), this increase will do little to address the provinces problem of poverty and inequality.
The small raise still means that 500,000 BC workers earn poverty wagesunder $15 per hour, Irene Lanzinger, BCFED president, said in a press release. Thats one out of every four workers in our province.
For Mr. Lanzinger, the problem starts at the top of government.
Premier Clark has done nothing to address B.C.s inequality crisis, he said. The plight of low wage workers just isnt on her radar. Its symbolic of whats wrong with our province. And it defines the choices voters can make in next Mays election.
Iglika Ivanova, economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said that she supports the point that this increase will not be enough to make a difference. Author of the report Working Poverty in Metro Vancouver and Myths and Facts about the Minimum Wage in B.C., she argues that while the increase is better than nothing, the recent 40 cent increase fails BCs low-wage earners.
The majority of low-wage workers work full time, and nearly a third have been in the same job for over three years, she said in a press release. Were not talking about teenagers or casual workersthese are adults struggling to make ends meet with poverty-level wages in one of the most expensive provinces in Canada.
Mr. Lanzinger said that the Federation will continue in its efforts to push the government for a higher minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Our ‘Fight for $15’ campaign is a concrete poverty-reduction strategy to address the widening gap between rich and poor and make life more affordable for many British Columbians, he said. We believe that nobody working a full-time job should live in poverty.
As part of the second phase of this governments plan, the minimum wage will get a similar increase next September to at least $11.25 per hour depending on the 2016 CPI.
For Ms. Ivanova though, small increases like this wont be enough.
Small minimum wage increaseslike the one were seeing todayonly perpetuate working poverty, she said. B.C. should join Alberta and the growing number of US cities and states in raising the minimum wage to $15. Anything less is unacceptable for a supposedly prosperous province.