The minimum wage increase during a period when many businesses are struggling to survive the pandemic could be the final blow that results in them closing, putting people out of work. CP photo

Minimum wage goes up June 1 in B.C. as businesses face COVID-19 challenges

Increase is part of the government’s pledge to implement a $15 per hour minimum wage

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s lowest paid workers get a pay increase Monday with a scheduled minimum wage hike at a crucial time for small businesses as they look for ways to continue operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase is part of the government’s pledge to implement a $15 per hour minimum wage by next year after a decade of no increases from 2001 to 2011.

The minimum wage jumps by 75 cents to $14.60 an hour on Monday.

Labour Minister Harry Bains said the government understands the pressures facing employers during the pandemic, but workers are also struggling.

“We’re all going through some very challenging times, no doubt about it,” he said in a recent interview.

Bains said the B.C. government’s $5 billion pandemic plan includes tax breaks and tax deferrals for businesses, and a $1.5 billion economic recovery fund. He said the federal government has also introduced wage subsidies for employers.

“Now, as much as ever, I think B.C.’s lowest paid workers also need support,” said Bains. “It’s not fair to ask them to delay their wage increase.”

But Prof. Andrey Pavlov at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie school of business said the government should forgo the minimum wage increase and allow market forces to determine rates of pay.

The pressures of the pandemic should be viewed as an opportunity to explore economic initiatives that don’t involve regulated minimum wages and government subsidies, he said.

“I’ve never been a fan of minimum wage increases because I believe wages should grow on their own through economic growth,” said Pavlov.

The minimum wage increase during a period when many businesses are struggling to survive the pandemic could be the final blow that results in them closing, putting people out of work, he said.

“Now, most businesses are thinking of shutting down or moving or restructuring in very substantial ways and you add that on top, it could be just the catalyst that pushes many businesses over the edge,” Pavlov said.

Iglika Ivanova, a senior economist at the Centre for Policy Alternatives in B.C., said the province is an expensive place to live and life has become more difficult for low-wage workers because many have been laid off.

She said most people earning the minimum wage were not able to work from home.

“Many lost their jobs during the lockdown phase of the pandemic, and now we’re starting to reopen a number of them will be called back and I think it’s important that they actually earn decent wages,” Ivanova said. “We’ve known for a long time that the minimum wage was too low in B.C.”

Statistics Canada reported B.C.’s unemployment rate in April increased to 11.5 per cent, with almost 400,000 lost jobs since March.

B.C. has eased some restrictions, allowing restaurants, hair salons and dentist offices to reopen but with physical distancing rules in place, businesses have taken cautious steps to restart.

Labour Ministry data shows 60 per cent of people earning the minimum wage in B.C. are female and 93 per cent of minimum wage jobs are in the service sectors, including cleaning services, grocery stores and restaurants, Bains said.

Quebec increased its minimum wage on May 1. Minimum wages in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Yukon increased on April 1.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Albertans get an extra free order of COVID-19 masks

Packages will be available July 13 at fast food restaurants

COVID-19 scare sees Latvia-bound troops turn around, return to Canada

Those on board face another 14 days in isolation

2 dead, 8 hurt in South Carolina nightclub shooting

Police are searching for two suspects

Ponoka RCMP lay charges following home invasion

33-year-old man who arrived on bicycle is in custody

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

‘You have to show up:’ NDP MP questions virtual attendance of Alberta Tories

NDP MP McPherson says she’s disappointed Tory MPs haven’t been participating in virtual meetings

Flood warning, mandatory evacuation for people in remote Alberta hamlet

A flood warning has been issued for the rain-swollen Smoky River near the Hamlet of Watino

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, Amnesty, sex worker advocates say

‘We need to make sure the existing laws on the books aren’t enforced’

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

Most Read