Minimum wage increases

Anyone working for minimum wage will be glad to know they're getting a raise, but employers might find their payroll getting tighter as they have to raise wages across the board.

Although the Alberta government's decision to introduce an automatic increase to the minimum wage in the province was well received by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), the group's president, Gil McGowan, said the minimum wage is still too low.

As of yesterday, the minimum wage rose to $8.40 from $8.00.

"Is it mathematically possible to earn a living in Alberta on that wage?" asked David Swan, member of the Vulcan and District Chamber of Commerce. "If you can't live on it, it's moot."

According to McGowan and the AFL, the minimum wage should be $10 an hour.

"Let's start with a realistic and fair minimum wage -- and then take it from there," he said.

But Alberta boasts one of the highest minimum wages in the country, said Scott Mitchell, owner of Market Street Foods.

"Honestly, I think it's getting a little ridiculous," said William Pilon, manager of the A&W, about the hike. "I have no problem with it, I understand the need with the growing economy, but once a year is enough."

The minimum wage had already increased by one dollar to $8 an hour on Sept. 1, 2007, and re-adjusting wages barely six months later is a pain, Pilon said.

"You're not just adapting for new staff, but for all existing staff," he said.
Just because someone's hourly wage is already more than the minimum wage, doesn't mean they wouldn't also get a raise.

After all, if someone's worked for a long period of time and a new employee comes in earning more, problems can arise.

"We're having a hard enough time finding staff as it is," Pilon told the Advocate last week, at which point he'd received one application in two weeks for a position he'd advertised.

Out of an ideal staff of about 25, Pilon's roster sits at 14, having recently lost some staff, he said.

A&W has been working on a program to bring in foreign workers, which is something Pilon has been looking into.

Being so short of staff puts him in the position where he doesn't have much in the way of other options, even if he would rather hire within the community, he said.

Some employees aren't that impressed by the minimum wage hike; either.
"Basically, nothing is changing, it's just the numbers going up -- but it's a nice thought," said Jayleen Kolody, who's worked at A&W since June.
With the base prices of living constantly rising in Alberta, such as rent, food and gas, the increase to the minimum wage will have a negligible effect, she said.

Agreeing that people should make more with the growing economy and increasing living costs, Pilon said it hurts the employer in the long run.
"It'll probably end up affecting the small business person to the point where they can't employ as many younger staff," said Mitchell.

Vulcan Advocate, Wed Apr 2 2008
Byline: Simon Ducatel

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