Alberta’s new $15 an hour minimum wage is one step in the right direction, says a spokesperson for Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance.
In the Red Deer area 8,700 workers will see a bump in their wages when the minimum wage increases from $13.60 as of Monday according to Statistics Canada.
“It would still be very difficult at $15 an hour to have your own apartment and sustain yourself. It’s in and of itself not going to allow someone to save for their future and different things. It will just allow them to sustain their basic needs,” said Lori Jack, alliance policy committee chair, on Monday.
More than 302,000 Albertans, or nearly one in six workers, have been earning less than $15 an hour in the province.
Jack said those workers would generally include sales and service jobs often in retail, restaurants or the service industry. Non-profit agencies also struggle and the alliance has expressed its concern to the provincial government.
“It’s impactful when they’re not necessarily raising more dollars or receiving greater grants from their different granting sources.”
She said the intent behind the government increasing the minimum wage is appreciated, but it’s not the only thing that needs to happen.
“We still don’t have a poverty reduction strategy and we’re still looking at the issues around housing and homelessness,” Jack said.
On the other side of the coin, the business community would like to slow things down.
“Our argument from the start is not to expedite the process, especially during all the layered costs that continue to haunt our businesses, whether it be the trade issue, or carbon tax, or federal taxation changes. And a fair amount of businesses are just coming out of this recession,” said Rick More, Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce interim CEO.
He said members were concerned in 2017 when minimum wage increased to $13.60.
He said the chamber is not against people making money, but the impact includes higher prices, fewer jobs, less quality of service with a smaller staff, and stress and burnout of employees and business owners. Closing the wage gap also leads skilled workers to ask for more.
There are realities, especially for small businesses, as they can’t respond like bigger companies, he said.
And the increase minimum wage doesn’t just affect the business community, More said.
“It affects the nonprofits. (People) don’t volunteer as much or donate. It is a vicious circle and I think you have to look at the entire picture. It’s pretty convoluted.”