Alberta Tories hold line on minimum wage

Minimum-wage earners in Alberta won't see any salary hike as the province on Friday announced a freeze for 2010, keeping workers' hourly pay at $8.80.

While the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) applauds this, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) balked at the move by Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk.

Gil McGowan, AFL executive director, said it's a "mean-spirited and heartless move" and it will hurt the lowest earners in Alberta.

Minimum wages in the country range from $8 an hour in British Columbia to $9.50 in Ontario.

Alberta's minimum wage, which is tied to the province's weekly earnings index, increased from $8.40 to $8.80 an hour on April 1, 2009.

McGowan said the freeze will make it more difficult for those at the bottom of the income ladder.

"I would describe this move as heartless and completely unnecessary," said McGowan.

Lukaszuk said the decision will both protect jobs during the recovery from recession and support Alberta's economy.
"In addition to freezing the minimum wage, I will also request an all-party committee review of our current policy, ensuring that our approach is what's best for Albertans," said the minister.

The province said the move won't only ensure Albertans in entry-level positions have jobs, but it will also keep small businesses viable and competitive through global economic recovery.

Richard Truscott, Alberta director of CFIB, said the timing of the freeze is perfect because the global economy is starting to recover but it's still fragile.

"Definitely the small business sector's confidence is growing, but it's still shaky," said Truscott.

"Increasing the minimum wage at this time may have a big impact on the optimism and confidence in small businesses," he said.

McGowan argued that most minimum-wage earners are employed by large restaurant chains and not necessarily by small businesses.

"The province is handing more money to fast-food restaurants and coffee shops by freezing the minimum wage," said McGowan.

The province will announce later details of the minimum wage policy review.

Since 2007, the rate has been upped every year but before that, changes to the wage were irregular.

Calgary Sun, Fri Feb 5 2010
Byline: Renato Gandia

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