Minimum wage officially goes up May 1, but for many West Shore businesses, paying more than $8 has been the norm for years.
Jennifer De Luca of Worklink in Colwood said she rarely sees entry-level jobs on the job board listing pay less than $9 or $10 per hour.
“Even in retail, the low-end is around $10,” De Luca said. “If employer wants somebody to work for $8, they’re probably going to have to advertise for a long time.”
She also pointed out that an employable single person living on income assistance is paid $620 per month, equivalent to working 20 hours per week at the current minimum wage.
“Higher wages will give more incentive for unemployed people to look for work,” De Luca said.
Days after being sworn in as premier, Christy Clark made good on her campaign promise to boost minimum wage, which has been frozen at $8 since 2001. The first of three-stage increases takes effect in May, upping it to $8.75. It hits $9 in November and $10.25 by May 2012.
Clark also canned the training wage that allowed employers to pay youth $6 for their first 500 hours. The only workers that won’t make the new wages are bartenders and servers working in a licensed premise.
A new “alcohol servers wage,” modeled after an Ontario standard, will have lower minimum of $9 after May 2012.
At Station House Pub in Langford, bar manager Darren Cross said because the pub already pays experienced staff at least $9, it won’t feel the impact of increased wages until next year when some kitchen staff will get a raise.
“We know we have to pay a fair wage to keep our staff around, that’s part of running a good business,” he said.
The restaurant industry has suffered in the last year with the introduction of stricter drinking and driving regulations and higher tax from the HST. “We’re hoping things will rebound before this (wage increase) hits us too,” Cross said.
West Shore Chamber of Commerce president Kyara Kahakauwila, owner of LA Limosines in Langford, said it’s not just lowest wage earners that will expect to see an increase.
“Minimum wage is a benchmark, the ripple goes all the way up the chain,” she said. “Everybody will ask for a raise. It will definitely impact every business’s bottom line.”
She said the increase came as a surprise and she wished there would have been more consultation with businesses.
“I agree it needed to go up, and I like the increments. I just wish we would have had more notice,” she said. “Just like the HST, there was no dialogue between government the businesses this impacts.”