Minimum wage set to increase

MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country, Norm Letnick, speaks to Premier Christy Clarks announcement that minimum wage is going up.

After remaining static for more than a decade, the minimum wage in B.C. is going up.

Premier Christy Clark announced last week that the increase will be phased in over a year and a half. As of May 1 of this year the minimum wage will rise from $8 per hour to $8.75 per hour. On Nov 1, 2011 it will rise again to $9.50 per hour. The final increase will come on May 1, 2012 when it will climb to $10.25 per hour.

The training wage for those just entering the job market is also being eliminated.

“Raising the minimum wage and eliminating the training wage is a fair and reasonable step forward in putting families first and building our economy. This increase could mean more than $4,000 additional dollars annually for a full-time employee, providing more support to B.C. workers and the families who depend on them,” said Premier Clark.

MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country, Norm Letnick, supports the increase.

“It’s been over 10 years since the minimum wage was last increased. We’ve gone from having the highest minimum wage in the country to the lowest so this was long over due,” says Letnick.

Nunavut has the highest minimum wage at $11 per hour.

Low income earners who are not paid an hourly wage are also going to benefit from last week’s announcement. Workers such as fruit pickers who are often paid a piece rate and nanny’s who are normally paid a daily rate, will have their incomes adjusted as a percentage of the corresponding scheduled increases.

The restaurant industry will have a slightly lower minimum wage for those employees that serve alcohol. The logic is that a person earning tips is not making a minimum wage. For alcohol servers the minimum wage will increase along the same timeline but will max out at $9 per hour.

Other tip earners in B.C. will not be subject to the lower minimum wage.

“Serving alcohol is a common theme for a dual minimum wage throughout the country,” says Letnick. “This is in line with how Ontario handles their minimum wage.”

Letnick says the decision to eliminate the $6 an hour training wage for new workers came about due to problems in how it was being used.

“The training wage hasn’t really worked the way it was intended to. It doesn’t take 500 hours to learn how to cook a McDonalds hamburger,” said Letnick, giving an example.

The increases to the minimum wage are being phased in to allow employers time to adjust to the financial impact to their businesses. Letnick says increasing minimum wage also increases the cost of product delivery and can ultimately affect employment.

In speaking with business owners in his own riding and throughout B.C. Letnick has been told that phasing in any increase to the minimum wage would be helpful in mitigating the financial implications.