Christy Clark is making good on her promise to raise BC’s minimum wage. The minimum wage has not been increased pretty much since the BC Liberals were elected. In a province with one of the highest costs of living, a minimum wage of $8 per hour is just not sustainable for those earning it. Factor in a single parent raising one or two children, even without needing childcare, they are living seriously below the poverty line. As prices for many goods and services have risen over the past 10 years, many of those working for those businesses have likely seen very little increase in their wage unless they work for a good employer. There are many employers who will only pay what the government says they have to pay.
Coalition of BC Businesses argues that a large increase in the will force small employers to hold off new hires and potentially reduce hours as a result of the increase. Another factor is that wage inflation will also ‘hit’ non-minimum wage earners in order to keep ratios between workers in place. I find the use of language interesting here. By using the phrase ‘wage inflation,’ the Coalition of BC Business is casting minimum wage increases in a negative way. After all when is inflation ever referred to as a good thing? Normally inflation is bad as it means we pay more for the necessities of life.
I remember a poster that they used to put up in income assistance offices. It was a poster designed to encourage people to take a minimum wage job as they would be better off than if they stayed on income assistance. While in theory this was true, if you factored in the costs of working (transportation, clothing, lunches etc) they would probably have a higher quality of living on income assistance. This would be especially true in the case of single parents. Even with a child care subsidy there is no way they could pay the parent portion and still feed the family.
The bottom line is that increasing the minimum wage puts more money into the economy. If a business cannot afford to pay a phased in higher minimum wage and survive then there is something seriously wrong with their business model. Paying people higher wages puts more money back into the economy, which, in turn, drives business.
The HST is also cited as having a seriously negative effect on business – especially restaurants and other hospitality industries. Perhaps the Coalition of BC Business would be better off trying to get a reduction in the amount of HST consumers are charged in restaurants. I am sure a couple of percent reduction would do far more to improve business than keeping wages so low employees have to make a choice between buying groceries and paying the heating bill.
I am disturbed that the province gave in when it comes to ‘gratuity workers’ or liquor services. While other industries will see the minimum wage rise to $10.25 an hour in the next year and a bit, those working in bars serving alcohol will top out at $9 an hour. The argument is that they actually have a higher standard of living slinging beer because they get tips. I suspect that the amount of tips varies wildly. I am sure those servers working at the No. 5 Orange on the Downtown Eastside would argue that they do not get enough tips to live on compared to others working in swankier places. I think the separation is ridiculous and all of them should be paid the same minimum wage.
The catch up to $10.25 per hour is just that – a catch up. It is still not a living wage for people in this province. If Christy Clark is to be truly visionary, she will build in an ongoing increase in the minimum wage on a yearly basis tied to the cost of living increase. The one good thing that came out of that announcement was that the abhorrent ‘training’ wage has been discontinued.
What would be truly progressive would be a living wage program or at least a minimum income for families with children. If we invest in families and children now, while the children are young, then they stand a good chance of being ready for school and succeeding. We all know that children who fall behind in school due to economic reasons are disadvantaged their entire lives due to fewer opportunities and lower overall health. I hope that Christy Clark’s ‘family first’ agenda means just what it says.