Just days after being sworn in as B.C.'s premier, Christy Clark has announced plans to raise the minimum wage - currently the lowest in Canada, with no increases in 10 years. In fact, wages have decreased with the creation of a low "training wage" that allows employers to pay new workers $6 per hour for the first 500 hours. The new premier has eliminated that wage.
The current minimum wage is $8, which will increase to $8.75 on May 1. It will increase again to $9.50 on Nov. 1 and then jump again to $10.25 on May 1, 2012.
"Raising the minimum wage and eliminating the training wage is a fair and reasonable step forward in putting families first and building our economy," said Clark. "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."
The one exception is with alcohol servers. The minimum wage is currently $8, and will increase to $9 in May 2012.
The minimum wage has been a hot topic in B.C. for a number of years, although the B.C. Chamber of Commerce has spoken out against increasing wages because they say it will result in job losses and fewer new hires.
"The announced raise for the minimum wage is an increase of 20 per cent in just over a year," said John Winter, the president and CEO of the B.C. chamber. "That is a significant increase in operating costs for businesses to take on in such a short time, and some regions will be more negatively impacted than others."
Fiona Famulak, the president of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber has surveyed its members locally and the majority said they would not be affected by a wage increase. However, a small majority of businesses would like to see wage increases follow a "clear and predictable" formula.
Among the survey results, 78.8 per cent of respondents said that the wage increase would not impact their business, while 21.2 per cent said that it would.
Some 53.1 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement, "B.C. Government should implement a regular increase to the minimum wage based upon a clear and predictable formula." Only 22.4 per cent agreed with the statement, "B.C. Government should implement a one-time increase to the minimum wage."
Just 18.4 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement, "Minimum wage should be left unchanged."
While $8 is the lowest minimum wage in Canada, just over two per cent of British Columbians were earning that amount. According to provincial figures, the average wage in B.C. is $23.16 per hour, the third highest in the country. The average youth wage is $13.86.