October 26th, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 46
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Minimum wage jumps to $12.20/hour
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Stock Photo
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
On Sept. 30, Crowsnest Pass bartender Crystal Johnston was making $11.20 an hour slinging suds at the Cosmopolitan Hotel’s bar in Blairmore.

A few weeks ago she got a raise when the province’s general minimum wage increased $1 per hour.

“It’s good,” she said. “I’ll probably spend it on bills.”

The increase marked the second in a series of steps that will give Alberta a $15 per hour minimum wage by 2018.

“Albertans who work full time should be able to live with dignity, and that means being able to afford rent, food and transportation for their families. This plan for Alberta's minimum wage provides long-term certainty to employers and workers,” said Christina Gray, Minister of Labour, in a news release.

Meanwhile, Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, said the increased minimum wage would allow full time workers to earn enough to support themselves and their families.

"Increasing the minimum wage will put more money in the pockets of Albertans earning the lowest wages at a time when they need it most,” he said.

On Oct. 1, Alberta’s general minimum wage increased $1.00 to $12.20 per hour and the old liquor server rate of $10.70 per hour was eliminated.
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Almost 300,000 Albertans earn less than $15 per hour. About 75 per cent of them are not students, over half of them are women and Nearly 33,000 of those earning less than $15 an hour are single earners with dependents.

Jan Reimer, executive director of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, said she supports the increase in the minimum wage, as it will improve the lives of women and children fleeing violence.

“Women make up the majority of Albertans supporting their families on minimum wage,” she said. “And starting over often means accepting low-wage employment.”

Edmonton bakery owner, Garner Beggs, explained that his business has enjoyed a number of benefits from paying a higher than minimum wage including staff retention and a reduction in training costs.

"Everybody’s lives have a fundamental worth, and if they are spending their energy and time to work and benefit society, then they are deserving of a fair wage," said Beggs in a statement.

In June, the province announced how the $15 per hour goal by 2018 would be reached. In addition to the 2016 increase, the general minimum wage will rise by $1.40 to $13.60 per hour on Oct. 1, 2017, and a further $1.40 to $15 per hour on Oct. 1, 2018.

The weekly minimum wage for some salespersons, land agents and other professionals will also rise from $446 to 486. The monthly minimum wage for domestic employees who live in their employer’s residence will rise from $2,127 to $2,316.
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Maximum deductions below minimum wage for meals and lodging will remain at $3.35 per consumed meal and $4.41 per day’s lodging.

Small business owner voices concerns

Johnston’s boss Jessie Zhang, the owner of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, is less thrilled with the wage increase.

“I think it is not good for small businesses,” she said. “It just costs too much.”

“Most businesses here are small,” she said of Crowsnest Pass. “They’re not like Wal-Mart or other big companies that have lots of money and cash flow.”

Zhang said the increase will mean that she will be working additional shifts behind the bar.

Trevor Tombe, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Calgary, said the effects of the wage increase on businesses in general and small businesses in particular will be a function of the firm’s ability to change its prices.

Studying minimum wage increases in the United States, Tombe said cost of labour increases are passed onto the consumer.

“The minimum wage has a very muted effect on employment,” he said. “It has a smaller negative effect than you might think.”

While increasing prices is an option for some businesses, the ability to do that depends on its competitors.

“In smaller communities it may very well be that there’s only the one local bar or the one small restaurant where the competition that they face won’t be another local business but people just not going out to eat and cooking more at home,” he said.
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October 26th ~ Vol. 85 No. 46
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