Local business owners are conflicted on B.C.’s minimum wage hike.
Next month the increase begins in stages as part of a plan to hit $15 per hour by 2021. NDP Labour Minister Harry Bains said the rate will go up by 50 cents, to $11.35 an hour, in September. Liquor servers’ wage will rise by the same amount to $10.10 per hour.
Kathryn Genereux, who owns Inspire Hair Design on Blanshard Street, thinks the change is positive, although her employees are already paid over the current minimum wage and won’t be affected. However, she can understand how difficult it is for other local businesses.
“It is hard to be a small business. We don’t have a lot of the (tax) breaks people think,” she said. “It is hard to pay a substantial wage and make money, so I understand it is difficult. However as an owner you want your staff, your team, to thrive and they can’t thrive off minimum.”
Andrew Millen is one of the owners of Oscar & Libby’s on Fort Street. He said there are pros and cons to the change and he can understand both sides.
He said 2021 seems like a long-way off and a reasonable time frame.
“One thing that crosses my mind is, if your new, inexperienced worker [is hired] at $15 an hour, and then your more veteran worker (is) making a little bit more than that, it’s going to bump everyone up,” he said.
“It’s going to drive the cost of doing business up, so cost of merchandise is going to go up to some degree.”
But he also understands that for those making the current wage, the cost of living is high. “It seems fair that way.”
The previous BC Liberal government had pledged to boost the minimum wage by 50 cents in February, but Bains panned what he called their slow and unpredictable effort.
“We will give it a legal effect so that it will be implemented Sept. 15,” said Bains.
The rate will go up by “incremental and predictable increases,” he told reporters, with a “responsible, fair approach.”
B.C.’s minimum wage is currently the seventh highest rate out of 10 in Canada. The jump to $11.35 will put it at the third highest. Seattle has also promised to increase its minimum wage to $15.
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– with files from Tom Fletcher + Kat Slepian