EDMONTON — The restaurant industry is trying to set the table in advance of talks with Alberta’s NDP government about its plan to increase the hourly minimum wage to $15 by 2018.
Restaurants Canada is recommending the province take the economy into account and phase in any changes to give business owners time to adjust.
The industry says restaurants and bars should still be allowed to pay a lower rate to servers who earn tips and young people in their first jobs should be paid less.
It wants the province to study how a planned hike to the minimum wage in October would affect the economy and jobs before announcing any future increases.
Alberta’s current minimum wage is $10.20, among the lowest in Canada.
Mark von Schellwitz, a Restaurants Canada spokesman, says business owners fear raising the rate to $15 per hour by 2018 is not sustainable given Alberta’s slumping oil sector.
“We have certainly heard from a number of our members over the last few weeks who are extremely concerned about surviving this increase, especially in an economic climate where they are already seeing their sales decline because of the downturn,” he said Wednesday.
“We are asking them (the NDP government) to adjust that promise and let’s take this one step at a time, one year at a time.”
Industry groups are to meet with the NDP government in Edmonton on Thursday to discuss the planned increase.
Restaurants Canada says it has more than 4,000 members in Alberta who employ more than 150,000 people.
Premier Rachel Notley promised to increase the minimum wage during her election campaign.
Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson has said the first increase in the rate is to kick in Oct. 1. The province is to announce how much that will be in the coming weeks.
The Northwest Territories has the highest minimum wage at $12.50 an hour. Ontario’s rate is to jump 25 cents to $11.25 hourly on Oct. 1.