Minimum wage should be increased but $15 an hour would be too overwhelming in one shot. That’s the main message the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce heard after it surveyed its membership in February.
“I don’t think there was one person that said it shouldn’t be increased,” the chamber’s second vice-president Scot Durward said of minimum wage. “However, what our members were looking for were reasonable increases tied to the cost of living in a predictable time frame they could adapt to.”
There was some vigorous discussion at Durward’s table during the chamber’s monthly lunch meeting when surveys were being filled.
“Lots of businesses are struggling,” he said. “A substantive minimum wage increase hits them when they are operating on a slim margin and sometimes barely paying themselves a living wage.”
It can sometimes mean the difference between being profitable and not being profitable, he added.
However most people agree there should be a price floor with a minimum wage.
“They would also like to let the markets determine what an appropriate minimum wage should be for each business above that price floor.”
After the survey, the local chamber reported back to the B.C. Chamber of Commerce with the results.
The local results mirrored the provincial government’s announcement in March which stated that effective Sept. 15, 2015, the minimum hourly wage will increase from $10.25 to $10.45 and the liquor server wage from $9 to $9.20.
“Ours was definitely some timely information that came right before the announcement,” Durward said. “I wouldn’t say we influenced it, but certainly we were in line with it and hopefully some of our information was taken to heart.”
The chamber is very supportive of working to reduce poverty in Williams Lake and across the province, Durward said. “It’s very clear the minimum wage is not a very effective tool and we’d like to engage the province in further discussions or see the province look at other policy levers.”
More effective measures would be income transfers, wage supplements and housing support, he suggested.
“For business to flourish it needs to have a healthy community and when there are high levels of poverty that’s not good for the strength and health of a community.”