Labour group suggests April 1 minimum wage hike in Alta is a sad joke

EDMONTON - Alberta's minimum wage hike kicks in on April Fool's Day, but an organization representing labour groups suggests $8.40 cents an hour is still a sad joke.

The Alberta Federation of Labour says the province's high cost of living means the minimum wage should be set closer to $12 an hour. Alberta's minimum wage was previously $8 an hour.

Premier Ed Stelmach announced the increase earlier this month, saying it will ensure that people on the low end of the wage scale share in the province's prosperity.

But federation president Gil McGowan says Alberta should be leading the country when it comes to minimum wages, given its booming economy.

With the increase, Alberta's minimum wage is the third highest in Canada behind Ontario's rate of $8.75 and Manitoba's $8.50.

"At the new level of $8.40 our minimum wage won't even come close to being a living wage," McGowan said Monday in a news release.

Alberta sets its minimum wage based on Statistics Canada survey information and the average weekly wage index.

McGowan says that's a good thing, but adds the government needs to get the base right.

Stelmach estimates that about 70,000 people earn the minimum wage in Alberta, most of them teenagers working in the restaurant and hospitality industries.

Many businesses in the fast-food industry already pay their employees more than the minimum wage because of the province's labour shortage.

Brandon Sun, Tues Apr 1 2008

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