Minimum wage hikes to $9.50, but not for everyone

Minimum wages went up yesterday to $ 9.50 in B.C., but some argue that it isn't enough.  

The minimum wage rate for liquor servers went up to just $8.50 -- 75 cents behind general wages. Farm workers, meanwhile, had no wage increase. 

The BC Federation of Labour  Jim Sinclair said that he and the union he represents are lobbying the government "to end with this discriminatory server wage."

"That is a form of discrimination; we should have one wage, that is the minimum wage for everybody,” Sinclair said.

New wage increases

Last May, Premier Christy Clark had announced last May that the minimum wage in B.C. would increase incrementally, up to $10.25 in May 2012. But some groups will benefit a lot less than others.  

Here are the minimum wages increases planned since May 1:

Prior to May 1, 2011 $8.00/hour

May 1, 2011 $8.75

Nov 1, 2011 $9.50

May 1, 2012 $10.25

Alcohol server wage for liquor servers

Prior to May 1, 2011 $8.00/hour

May 1, 2011 $8.50

Nov 1, 2011 $8.75

May 1, 2012 $9.00

Although liquor servers receive tips which may compensate for the lower payment, Sinclair argued that 25 to 30 per cent of tips goes to the employers, rather than the workers. He added that the tip money doesn’t go towards workers’ benefits such as pension, maternity leave or vacation pay.

People in other occupations as barbers or taxi drivers get tips too, and are not exempt from wages hike and it affects anybody who serves in places with alcohol licenses, “even if it's just a bottle of beer.”

“So for instance, at breakfast restaurants  like IHOP, you still are going to get the low wage,” he said. 

The union leader said the labour group will “keep making noise until (the wage) changes” and encouraged people to sign an online petition “Against Unfair Server Wage”. He said petition has collected 5,000 signatures so far.

On the other side, BC Chamber of Commerce CEO John Winter said it's too early to tell the effect of these wages, as there have been no comprehensives studies since May to determinate their impact.

Winter said that few businesses pay the minimum wage -- the hikes mainly affect  "hospitality and food services”, so the increase  is not an issue for the majority of companies in B.C as they have their own "pay scale."

The Business Council of BC published a study in March showing that only 2.3 per cent of employees earn the minimum wage in BC , while it was 7.7 per cent in 2002.

"It’s the impact on other wages, and how it drives  them up, that's a big concern," said Winter.

"Our expectation is that there will be lots of job losses as a result.”

He added  the wage increases will cost more for these businesses, so consumers may be seeing price hikes as well. 

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