Servers and burger-flippers rejoice! On September 1, the Alberta government will increase the province’s minim- um wage from $5.90 to $7.00 per hour.
“Increasing the minimum wage is one way of ensuring Albertans get a better start in the workforce,” said Alberta Human Resources and Employment Minister Mike Cardinal. “Most Albertans, including employers and employees, agree that the minimum wage should be increased.”
Students’ Union President Bryan West noted the increase will affect the SU, as it pays servers and bartenders at the Den minimum wage, and he believes the increase will be beneficial to university students.
“The jump is certainly positive for students, particularly for people that are in the service industry,” said West. “It gives that extra boost and that extra dollar in order to help them make it through university. We know that more and more students are having to accommodate part-time jobs on top of their studies to be able to afford to go to school.”
Alberta Liberal labour critic Dan Backs applauds the government for implementing the increase, however, he is disappointed it will not be instituted sooner.
“I certainly would like to have seen the increase come in right away,” said Backs. “Many students will still have to work through summer at the very, very low rate of $5.90 and this will affect their ability to fund their school year. It should have gone ahead earlier.”
Backs added that $7.00 per hour is still not enough. He suggested a council including students and employers in various industries should be set up to examine what constitutes a proper minimum wage, and advocated a regular and consistent wage increase to ensure people follow a decent standard of living.
Because of Alberta’s economic prosperity, the increase in minimum wage is not likely to affect the economy as a whole.
“Alberta is a fairly rich province, which means that the average wage is way above the minimum wage,” said Dr. Frank J. Atkins, a University of Calgary economist. “Those people that are going to be affected by the increase in minimum wage are a very, very small segment of the working population in Alberta. Overall, you won’t notice the effect at all.”
According to the provincial government, less than one per cent of working Albertans–approximately 11,000 people–earn minimum wage. The average hourly wage in Alberta is $18.55.
Atkins noted small businesses whose payroll constitutes their biggest expense may be hurt by the increase.
“You have to make that up somewhere,” Atkins said. “If you’re in a highly competitive industry, you can’t change your price. The only other way to make it up, if you want to stay on the margin, is you have to let some of your workers go.”
Alberta currently has the lowest minimum wage in the country. When the increase occurs in September, Alberta will have the fourth-highest wage, with Nunavut leading the nation at $8.50 per hour.