B.C.’s minimum wage rose to $14.60 on June 1 and the minimum wage rates for liquor servers, resident caretakers and live-in camp leaders are also increasing.
In 2018, the provincial government committed to raising the minimum wage following a path of annual increases.
Effective June 1, general minimum wage increases by 5.4 per cent to $14.60 per hour, an increase of 75 cents per hour. Liquor server minimum wage increases by 9.8 per cent to $13.95 per hour, an increase of $1.25 per hour. Resident caretaker minimum wage, per month, increases by 5.4 per cent to $876.35 for those who manage nine to 60 units (an increase of $35.12/unit) or $2,985.04 for 61 or more units. Live-in camp leader minimum wage, per day, increases by 5.4 per cent to $116.86.
The June 1 increase is the third of four planned increases scheduled to take place on June 1 of each year since 2018. The increases are the result of recommendations from the independent Fair Wages Commission, established in 2017 to advise government on an approach to raising provincial minimum wages to at least $15 per hour by June of 2021.
“Those increases were set up to slowly bring minimum wage workers up to the poverty line and they aren’t there yet,” said Laird Cronk, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, arguing the financial impact of the COVID-19 health crisis has been borne disproportionately by workers in the lowest- paid jobs.
About 60 per cent of workers who earn minimum wage are female, while more than half are ages 15 to 24, according to a report published last year by Statistics Canada. Just under half of minimum wage earners work full time.
About 33 per cent of all minimum wage workers are employed in retail trade, while 26 per cent work in accommodation and food services. About two-thirds of minimum wage workers have a high school diploma or less.
“I would argue that a business model that requires workers to live in poverty is not a successful business model,” said Cronk, who sits on the premier’s Economic Recovery Task Force. “Likewise, an economic recovery should not be built on the backs of people who are earning the lowest wage that it is legal to pay.”
However, a government-mandated minimum wage increase could magnify the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic by making it harder for struggling businesses to continue operating or to rehire employees, said Andrey Pavlov, a professor of finance at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.
“I am all for helping everyone improve their lives and higher wages are a key component for that,” he said. “However, wages should increase naturally because the demand for labour is high, not because of government interventions.”
He noted that wages for unskilled workers in construction have naturally increased to $25 a hour or more because of rising demand for workers.
Some in the food service industry had hoped to see the minimum wage increase deferred while the industry tries to recover from restaurant closures and physical-distancing guidelines that cut seating capacity — in some cases by half — due to the pandemic.
The government has acted to defer payments on everything from provincial sales tax, the Employer Health Tax and property taxes, said Ian Tostenson, president of the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association.
“We supported the staged increase of minimum wage a few years back,” he said. “We would prefer to see this increase postponed for six months. Any added cost to an employer potentially could be the difference between opening or closing forever.”
— with files from Vancouver Sun