B.C.'s minimum wage increases to $14.60 an hour
VANCOUVER -- British Columbia's lowest paid workers are taking home an extra 75 cents an hour after the province increased its minimum wage to $14.60 from $13.85 on Monday.
Since 2018, the minimum wage has seen an annual jump as part of a province promise to increase the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, but even though the wage hikes have been phased in, some businesses don’t think this is the right time.
Lisa Beecroft, co-owner of Caffe Divano and Gabe & Jules, says her four Metro Vancouver coffee shops locations had to close for a month at the start of the pandemic, adding they’re only reopening now because of the federal wage subsidy program.
"It's a difficult business to begin with. So, this is just going to be an added level of kind of stress," she says.
Beecroft says her employees already make more than minimum wage, but they will likely get raises soon.
"You can't pay somebody that's doing more than an entry-level position, you can't pay them the same as the person that, you know, is first entering the workforce," she explains.
She says the wage jump will have a ripple effect.
"As wages go up, what you’re paying as far as benefits of CPP and EI, the threshold for the employer health tax, like, we’re reaching that sooner because we’re paying everybody more," she explains.
“What we are hearing from small businesses is that this will be a payroll cost right now that's coming at the most unfortunate time for them,” says Annie Dormuth with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “A lot of them are still closed, even though B.C. is in phase two of the three-phase opening plan, and have basically seen next to no revenues.”
Dormuth says many businesses that have reopened are not operating at full capacity.
“We may see some small businesses say, ‘Oh, I can't actually bring back all of my employees because of this.’ And with the wage subsidy, these programs aren’t in place forever and these payroll costs and increase on minimum wage, it’s going to be here for a longer period of time,” she says.
But advocates for a pay increase believe the pandemic has helped shine a light that many essential workers are also minimum wage workers.
“It’s extremely necessary to increase the minimum wage, to make sure that those low-wage workers that do have to go to work and put themselves at risk, are compensated fairly,” says Iglika Ivanova, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Ivanova adds those putting themselves at increased risk would need to be working nearly full-time hours in order to earn the equivalent of the the $2,000 monthly payment from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
“We’re looking at a situation where a minimum wage worker has to work 35 hours a week to earn what an unemployed worker would get from the CERB, so I think we forget sometimes how low wages are when we add them up to weekly and monthly earnings,” she says.
The province defends its decision to move ahead with the planned wage increase.
“We won’t have a strong economy in British Columbia if the lowest paid workers continue to struggle and continue to not be able to participate in the economy,” says Finance Minister Carole James.
She says the province has been taking steps to support small businesses such as further reducing the school property tax rate for commercial properties, which would reduce the total property tax bill about 25 per cent for most businesses.
The province has also introduced a new emergency order to protect some businesses from eviction.
Wages for some other workers have also increased.
A liquor server's minimum wage has gone up 9.8 per cent to $13.95 an hour, a jump of $1.25 an hour.
The resident caretaker monthly wage has gone up 5.4 per cent to $876.35 to those who manage between nine to 60 units, or $2,985.04 for 61 or more units.
Live-in camp leaders will see a wage hike of 5.4 per cent, to $116.86 a day.
In 2021, the final increase is scheduled to bring the minimum wage to $15.20.