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B.C. raises minimum wage by more than $1 an hour

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British Columbia’s lowest paid workers are getting a pay hike.

The province is increasing minimum wage by more than a dollar an hour, starting Wednesday.

It’s rising to $16.75 per hour from $15.65.

The province says the change will affect about 150,000 workers across B.C.

However, the local business community says it’s an added expense it can’t afford.

“This decision and the significant minimum wage increase was made without consulting business. It was a huge surprise,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade.

She calls the move “unacceptable.”

The wage hike applies to minimum-wage workers, resident caretakers, live-in home support workers, live-in camp leaders and hand-harvest workers.

The B.C. government says the increase reflects last year’s average annual inflation rate, which was nearly seven per cent.

“All they're going to do is push up the cost that we're all paying for our goods and services. So if we're trying to lower the cost, the inflation and we're trying to watch our economy, the last thing we need to be doing is be pouring fuel on the fire, like this does,” Cory Redekop, CEO of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.

However, advocates like Living Wage for Families B.C. argue businesses should be paying their employees even more.

The living wage in Metro Vancouver has been estimated to be $24.08 an hour.

That’s the hourly amount that each of two working parents with two young children must earn to meet their basic expenses once government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies are taken into account.

With a living wage, workers would earn $12,500 more than they would with the new minimum wage each year.

Approximately 300 employers across B.C. currently pay living wages.

“They do it not just because they see the moral reasons for paying a living wage, they also see the business benefits of it. Lower staff turnover, it helps with retention,” said Anastasia French, the provincial manager for Living Wage for Families B.C.

French says the participating employers range from small businesses, like cleaning companies, to bigger corporations.

She named the City of Victoria, ride-share company Modo and Vancity credit union as examples.

“A lot of businesses are telling me ‘Right now we're in a labor shortage.’ The research is actually showing it's a wage shortage,” said French.

B.C.’s minimum wage is now the second highest in the country, sitting two cents below the Yukon’s.

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