B.C. workers, businesses await minimum wage news

The B.C. government said last year that minimum wage increases would be tied to inflation. Monika Gul looks into what’s expected this year, and how much the province’s new minimum wage could be.

Businesses and workers in B.C. are waiting to see if the province’s minimum wage is going up this year, and if so, by how much.

B.C.’s minimum wage usually increases on June 1 each year, and the last increase in 2022 brought it up to $15.65 per hour.

According to the province, last year’s raise was the first tied to B.C.’s average annual inflation rate, which was 2.8 per cent in 2021.

A screenshot showing the yearly minimum wage increases in B.C.

B.C.’s minimum wage is supposed to increase on June 1, but there is concern over whether or not the increase will be tied to inflation. (Photo screenshot via B.C. Government)

The provincial government has promised to continue to tie increases to the rate of inflation. If that promise were to be fulfilled this year, the minimum wage would go up 6.6 per cent – about $1 more per hour.

“We don’t know where the government is going to go. We talked to them yesterday and they’re still trying to consider what they want to do on this,” Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, told CityNews.

Tostenson says an increase of several per cent points could be harmful to the restaurant industry. He suggests an increase of 3 per cent, which is what the province negotiated with the BC General Employees’ Union in 2022.

“We do want to pay our workers well, we do want to have a healthy hospitality industry. But at the same time, you know, we’re seeing restaurants closing right now because inflation, renting increases, food increases. And I can understand that if we were underpaying or we weren’t paying competitively, but we are,” he said.

Many restaurants, Tostenson adds, are paying above minimum wage to attract workers amid an ongoing labour shortage.

However, the minimum wage doesn’t necessarily translate to an affordable wage, according to Sussanne Skidmore, president of the BC Federation of Labour.

“The reality is that most people actually need a living wage and not the minimum wage,” she said.

“Housing costs are very unaffordable. And in most of our province, food costs are astronomical, and the wages of workers have not kept up with the cost of everything else. So, for the lowest paid workers in our province, for them to have that tie, at least to inflation, is really important.”

B.C.’s Ministry of Labour told CityNews in a statement that an update on the province’s base wage will be announced soon. B.C. currently has the highest minimum wage among all provinces.

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