Minimum wage set to increase in Alberta

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July 2, 2015 8:15 AM

On June 29, it was confirmed that Alberta will be making its first moves toward a $15 per hour minimum wage this fall.

At a press conference held at the Alberta Legislature, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Lori Sigurdson announced that the province’s general minimum wage will go up to $11.20 per hour from $10.20 on Oct. 1.

“We have listened closely to Albertans and have taken their views and suggestions into account. Our plan includes a $1 increase to the general minimum wage this year, plus a two-year phase out of the liquor server rate. We will continue to consult with stakeholders as we move forward on our goal over the next three years,” Sigurdson said in a press release.

But not all business owners in the province are confident in the news. A recent survey conducted by the Alberta Chamber of Commerce elicited around 1,600 responses and counting from local chambers representing businesses in over a hundred communities.

Ken Kobly, president of the Alberta Chamber of Commerce, said the responses came not only from employers that have minimum wage workers, but a cross-section of business owners concerned about the upward pressure on all of their labour costs.

“They’re concerned about how they’ll manage to balance their books, whether they’re going to have to reduce staff to counter the increased costs, whether their going to have to introduce automation, whether they’re going to have to, if they can, increase their prices,” said Kobly.

Another group that voiced concerns in the survey were non-profit organizations, a sector Kobly says the chamber hadn’t considered before hearing from them. He says non-profits have to be tight with their budgets and any increase to staffing costs could have a negative impact on their operations.

“We heard from a number of daycare operators, both non-profit and for profit, and because a good portion of their operating expenses every month are the labour costs, they’re concerned what is going to be the impact on parents when they have to raise the childcare fees in order to make the books balance.”

The effects might be felt by more than just the businesses themselves as well. Kobly says business owners are concerned about having to raise prices for their products and services, which will in turn be felt by the consumer. This could be especially troublesome for people on fixed incomes like pensioners. There are a few other factors that are putting business owners on edge as well, according to Kobly. The proposed royalty and climate change reviews added to the sluggish economy might not equal the best time for businesses to be questioning their potential for keeping their doors open.

“So our solution that we proposed was slow the process down,” said Kobly. “Let’s analyze the situation and make sure that it does in fact do what it’s intended to do.”

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