The recently announced 20 cents an hour raise in B.C.’s minimum wage isn’t large enough to have any effect on workers.
So says Charlene Hird, manager of Original Joe’s Restaurant & Bar in Langford, an establishment that employs both servers and kitchen staff.
“I’m all for the $15 an hour,” Hird said, adding that it’s difficult for anyone to live on the current rate.
The increase from $10.25 an hour to $10.45 for general workers takes effect Sept. 1 and marks the first such raise since 2012.
In making the announcement last week, Jobs Minister Shirley Bond said going forward the rate will reflect an increase in the B.C. Consumer Price Index, with rates adjusted every September. If the CPI drops, however, the minimum wage would remain at the previous year’s rate.
The minimum wage for servers, which is set at a lower rate to reflect income from tips, will rise from $9 an hour to $9.20.
Doug Kobayashi, owner of Bitez Sandwich Bar in Colwood, isn’t bothered by the increase.
“Speaking strictly as a small business owner, I think a move to $15 would have been ridiculous. (But) it’s unfortunate that the government has to tell us what to pay staff,” he said. “Every job is different, and requires different skill levels.”
All of his employees are “kids,” mainly students living at home who are looking for a little extra cash or money for schooling, which he encourages. Kobayashi, who is also president of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce, said the market should establish what business owners pay staff.
“Labour is my second biggest cost,” he added. A larger minimum wage increase would mean “businesses would have to raise prices, especially considering how food prices are out of this world. Increasing prices would affect seniors.”
The B.C. Federation of Labour, which has been lobbying hard for an increase to $15 an hour, was critical of the raise, estimating that it will take until 2034 to reach the $15 an hour target.
“We are seeing a growing gap between rich and poor and a lot of poverty in British Columbia,” organization president Irene Lanzinger said in a media release. She called the increase “pathetic,” noting that B.C. leads the country in poverty and a raise to $15 would have counteracted that to some degree.
B.C. is the last province in Canada to move to an automatic formula for setting the minimum wage.
The annual increase will be announced each March based on the previous year’s consumer price index, and will take effect each September to give small businesses time to prepare.