It has been just over a month since the province of Alberta raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, making it the highest rate in the country. Yet some still believe the current minimum wage does not allow the basic needs of Calgarians to be met.
Lindsay Ross, an employee at Jill Hawker’s store The Apothecary, gets paid a living wage. She says this makes all the difference for her and her livelihood.
“I've worked at minimum wage jobs, like most of us have, and honestly I been in situations where I couldn't afford appropriate clothing for the job and that was working in the mall,” says Ross. “I think that having people come to work and be at the very least, comfortable and safe and fed; I think that's a pretty minimal requirement.”
A living wage is around $17.70 per hour for a family of four calculated based on the actual cost of living in a Calgary community.
Franco Savoia, Executive Director of Vibrant Communities Calgary, advocates on behalf of all Calgarians for a living wage. Savoia believes the current minimum wage is not enough for Calgarians to get by on.
“We come at it from a point of justice. Is it right that if you're working full time as a Calgarian, that you have to go to the food bank, or any other service agency, to meet your basic needs? We don't think that's just, it's as simple as that,” says Savoia.
For some business owners, the effects of this wage increase have forced them to change their business model. Abi Paul, owner of Chapter 1 Daycare, explains that daycares are in a challenging position because they are required to employ a certain number (depending on the age of the children) of staff members per child.
This mandatory labour ratio, along with the minimum wage increase, has resulted in higher operating costs, something Paul has to take into account when looking ahead.
“We've been preparing just like most businesses have since the new government legislated the wage increase. We have developed our recruiting process and retention process based on anticipating this wage increase,” Paul says. “This year the increase has been the largest jump but knowing that it's stabilized at this level now we at least can plan ahead. Each business will have a different capability on what they can do or not do.”
There are various perspectives to consider when approaching the minimum wage debate. Despite this, the recent wage hike is a reality all Calgary business owners will have to adapt to sooner rather than later.
- By Sarah Green