by Alex Wilks/Special to the Langley Advance
B.C.’s lowest paid workers may finally be able to keep up with the high cost of living when the minimum wage increases this upcoming June.
Premier John Horgan announced on Thursday (Feb. 8) that this province’s minimum wage will increase to $15.20 by 2021.
The Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce is “not opposed to the minimum wage increases,” explained secretary-treasurer Brad Kiendl.
“However, we have concerns around it going up too quickly.”
He noted that, “$11.35 per hour is not enough to live off of in the Greater Vancouver area. With the rising cost of living, including the ever-increasing cost of housing, it is becoming increasingly harder for people to live within their means when earning minimum wage.”
Although Kiendl agrees that B.C.’s minimum wage needs to rise, he pointed out that the minimum wage is meant to support the youth and individuals with less experience.
READ: B.C. to increase minimum wage to $15.20/hour in 2021
“In most cases minimum wage is simply an entry-level or training wage, especially for younger and lower skilled workers,” Kiendl elaborated. “Most employers offer many opportunities for career advancement from entry-level positions.”
The current hourly minimum wage is $11.35. It is set to increase to $12.65 in 2018, to $13.85 in 2019, $14.60 in 2020, and $15.20 in 2021 – effective each June for the next four years.
“An immediate jump to $15 would be very tough on business owners and would likely lead to a combination of layoffs and price increases,” explained Kiendl, who is a founder of Ashdown Capital, a finance brokerage house.
“Businesses will be forced to pass the extra costs on to consumers to keep their business alive.”
That said, he added that the increase will “make going out and enjoying most services more expensive. Most of the services we enjoy on a daily basis are provided by companies employing entry-level employees at minimum wage.”
This means it will cost more to attend a movie, eat out at a restaurant, or even purchase new clothing.
Currently about half a million B.C. workers, or 25 per cent of the province’s labour force, earn less than $15-an-hour.
Women make up 60 per cent of low-wage workers, adults make up 80 per cent of minimum wage employees, and one in seven workers holds a post-secondary degree.
“Local businesses, especially manufacturers, farmers, [and] retailers will be impacted the most,” said Kiendl.
“This will naturally mean they have to charge more for their products, which will make it harder for them to compete with big business that are producing products in places where labour costs are much lower.”
Almost 100,000 minimum-wage earners will benefit from the wage increase on June 1, 2018. But once the minimum wage increases to more than $15-an-hour in 2021, 400,000 workers throughout the province will benefit.
Kiendl offers a solution to the minimum wage debate.
“Tie increases to minimum wage to the consumer price index. As the cost of goods rises organically, increase the minimum wage by the same percentage,” he suggested.
“At the chamber, our main concerns are the impact increases to the minimum wage will have on business owners.
“Small steady increases that can be budgeted for can be seen as healthy for the economy; however, steep increases will make it harder for many businesses to manage and may force business owners to lay off some staff members.”
It is Chamber of Commerce week Feb. 19 to 23, and the Langley Advance is helping celebrate by offering a number ofstories about this business organization in Langley that is 1,000 members strong.
READ: Widen the freeway now, Langley chamber insists (WITH VIDEO)
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