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article imageAlberta NDP government to raise minimum wage to $15 per hour

By Ken Hanly     Jun 30, 2016 in Politics
Edmonton - The Alberta provincial New Democratic Government (NDP) led by Rachel Notley is following through on a promise made during last year's election campaign that the minimum wage in Alberta would be raised to $15 an hour.
The NDP government will be phasing in the increases. On October 1 this year, the minimum will rise by a dollar to $12.20 per hour. On Oct 1 the next year, it will increase to $13.60 per hour. On October 1, 2018 it will reach the full $15 per hour.
The government claims that the increase in the minimum wage will help reduce the wage gap between men and women in that 62 percent of minimum wage earners are females. Brenda Brochu, president of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters said: "This is a historic opportunity to reduce the wage gap across the province. A woman who works all day to support her family should not have to take a second job or go to the food bank to meet her basic needs.” The government estimates that there are about 300,000 Albertans who earn the minimum wage and about 38 percent of them are families with children.
In spite of opposition from some business groups, the government claims the hike will not have a significant impact on Alberta businesses and not all businesses opposed the move. Duchess Bake Shop co-owner noted the value to his business of paying a living wage: “We have benefited greatly from paying higher than minimum wages through very high staff retention thereby saving on training, maintaining efficiencies and creating a workplace people want to be part of. Everybody’s lives have a fundamental worth, and if they are spending their energy and time to work and benefit society, then they are deserving of a fair wage.”
However, the Edmonton and Calgary Chambers of Commerce issued a joint statement maintaining that "with the increasing rates of business closures and bankruptcies, its the wrong time to add to the burdens faced by Alberta businesses with a significant increase in the minimum wage." Janet Riopel, President and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber said that the Chamber supported a fair wage but warned that the rapid increase of the minimum wage could cause harmful and unintended consequences to the very workers it was meant to help as businesses cut staff or reduced hours in order to be able to pay the increased wage.
NDP Labour Minister Christina Gray dismissed the concerns of some business groups saying: "Restaurants Canada and some of the well-funded lobby groups have been heard through this process and they were part of our consultations. I absolutely listened with interest. And through the consultations we listened to small businesses, as well as employees who are low-wage earners, people who are lobbyists for various sides. We believe making sure every Albertan has a fair wage is most important." Jan Reimer, executive director of Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, said the increase is significant, saying: "We know that income security is the primary determinant of individual and community health. Alberta's plan to increase minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018 could be one of the most significant policy changes for Canadian health this decade." Gray said that the increase will help ensure that every Albertan will be able to afford rents, transportation and food. On the other side, Arthur Ruddy, director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business complained that the government's consultation with business groups was only for show saying: "What's frustrating is the headline of the release that says 'minimum wage brings hope to hard-working Albertans.' Entrepreneurs are hard-working Albertans, They get a slap in the face while the economy is still reeling from a recession." The government had already raised the minimum wage by a dollar last fall.
Gray said that the plan phased in the wage increases giving employers time to adjust while giving lower income Alberta families some of the help they need. Among the industry groups opposing the raise are Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Leader of the opposition Wildrose Party Brian Jean said that the hike comes at the worst time as Alberta lost 24,000 jobs in May. Interim Progressive Conservative leader, Rick McIver, also opposed the raise saying it came at the wrong time and would result in even more job losses.
More about Alberta NDP governemtn, Minimum wage, rachel notley
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