The future might be a bit more lucrative for some employees, but a bit tighter for some employers, with the recent increase to minimum wage rates. On May 1 the general rate increased to $10.25 per hour, and liquor servers’ minimum wage rose to $9 per hour.
This is the third increase to minimum wages in the past year, and meets the target set by Premier Christy Clark to reach $10.25 by May 2012.
“British Columbians who made $8 per hour last year, could have an additional $4,000 in their pockets this year,” explains Margaret MacDiarmid, minister of labour, citizens’ services and open government. “That’s good news for individuals and families, and that’s good news for the economy.”
Yet while no employee would balk at a raise, these increases can put a strain on an employer’s bottom line. As of May 1, 2011 the $6 per hour training wage for a youth’s first 500 hours of paid employment was revoked, concurrent with the $2.25 per hour increase in general rates.
Ryan Schmalz, a small business owner at Sun Peaks, worries that employers could be less likely to hire young or inexperienced staff at the new higher wage, thusly hurting the prospects of new workers entering the field.
“The first 500 hours of a young person getting a job, (they were paid a) training wage, but (now they’ll be) making $10.25 an hour,” says Schmalz. “Now the people that have been around longer have to (have their wages upped) to be quite a bit more than minimum. I would like all my people to make more money but it’s definitely tough on small businesses.”
For the licensed restaurant sector, the increase in wages is smaller with the expectation that servers will earn gratuities on top of their wages.
Peter Ernst, a restaurateur at Sun Peaks, acknowledges that the increase in servers’ minimum wage, to $9 per hour, reflects living costs, and attempts to safeguard against inconsistencies in tipping.
“When I sometimes see servers walking out with $250 in their pocket, on one side of things I think, ‘Do they need an increase?’ but there are a lot of employees that work in the industry that are not making those tips,” says Ernst. “For those there should be an appropriate minimum wage.”
The $9 rate applies only to people directly serving alcohol to customers as a regular part of their work. Other restaurant employees, such as dishwashers or hosts, are entitled to the $10.25 base rate.
British Columbia now has the second highest minimum wage rate in Canada, falling behind Nunavut at $11 per hour.