Alberta splits opinion with minimum-wage increase

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Earlier this week, officials in Alberta announced a minimum-wage increase that will come into play on October 1 but the $1 hike hasn’t gone down well with everyone.

"I guess the best thing that you can say is that it wasn't two dollars," said Ken Kobly, president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC).

"You probably will see a reduction in employment, particularly with students," he said, adding that members were already expressing their intention to raise prices “wherever they possibly can.”

A previous survey conducted by the ACC found that 70 per cent of businesses would either raise prices or cut staff if the minimum wage was raised.

It may, however, be a little premature to panic. The increase, which will take the current minimum wage up from $10.20 an hour to $11.20 an hour, only affects an estimated 39,000 workers – or 2.2 per cent of the provincial workforce.

Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, said the changes were a big step towards tackling poverty and gender wage equality in Alberta.

“This is a balanced, reasonable approach that is manageable in today’s economic climate,” she said. “Most importantly this represents broad-minded social policy that will improve the quality of life for all Albertans.”

Public Interest Alberta spokesman Joel French agreed – “It’s a positive step forward for reducing poverty and is a crucial part of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, which we hope to see from the government in the near future,” he said.

If poverty reduction is the goal, argued Kobly, the government should consider changes to the Alberta family employment benefit so people who need help get it. 
 
  • Concerned business leader on 2015-07-02 3:27:16 PM

    How is it possible that only 39,000 people will be impacted? What they are referring to is those that are currently below $11.20 and will be raised up, but what about all the others that are at or around $11.20, that will no longer be deemed to be in a more valuable role than minimum wage. Have they really thought through all of the other impacts? Prices will increase, employees will be laid off, and I suspect many businesses will suffer a slow death as well. I agree that minimum wage needs to continue to move upwards, but why so much at once? Who else is getting 9.8% increases this year?

  • Rob Cairns on 2015-07-03 4:43:22 PM

    I think you are overestimating the psychological value of that $1.00/hour difference to the employee who makes $11.20/hour. The fact that both of these salary levels are significantly below what would be considered a living wage kind of puts a ceiling on how chuffed one might feel about their extra pay in my mind. It also explains why a higher increase in percentage terms is warranted. Over all, I believe this will be good for business and the economy, even if it requires a period of adjustment for some businesses. How do we expect a consumer economy to function when the consumers at the lower end of the salary scale don't have any discretionary spending ability?

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